Stuck with nightmare tenants? Your legal rights as a landlord

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Stuck with nightmare tenants? Your legal rights as a landlord

Operating a rental property may seem like an easy investment to run. However, not all tenants pay on time. Some tenants do not take care of your property and leave you with damages to repair. Therefore, to protect your investment, you need to know your legal rights as a landlord.


The Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT) deals with disputes between landlords and tenants. It is a useful tool when there is a dispute between a landlord and a tenant, but it is important to note that whilst the RHT can help mediate issues around rental disputes, their recommendations do not hold the same weight as a court order. Either party is welcome to refer a matter to Court.


What a landlord cannot do:  

  • Change the locks of the property. They also cannot prevent a tenant from accessing the premises by blocking access codes or remotes.
  • Seize a tenant’s possessions and sell the same in order to settle what the tenant owes in terms of outstanding rent. A tenant can lay criminal charges against their landlord if they do this. A landlord can only do this if they have a valid court order confirming the amount owed, and a warrant issued for the seizure of the tenant’s possessions by way of a sheriff of the court.
  • Evict a tenant without a court order.
  • Disconnect the tenant’s electricity or water.


What a landlord can do:

  • Follow the eviction process and get a court order to evict the tenant.
  • Sue a tenant for any arrear rental, and once a court order is granted, have a warrant issued to seize the tenant’s possessions.
  • Bring a landlord tacit hypothec – this is a type of legal action where a landlord can approach court on an urgent basis and prove to the court what is owed, and that there is a threat that the tenant may vacate the property. The court will then grant an interim court order allowing the tenants assets to be immediately seized by the sheriff and held in storage. On the return date, the hypothec can be finalised in which case a judgement is granted and warrant is issued entitling the sheriff to sell the tenants possessions that have been seized.


What to do if the tenant has vacated the property, but caused damages:

  • Step 1: look at the inspection performed prior to the tenant moving in and compare it to the inspection concluded when the tenant moved out (we always recommend pictures be taken at these inspections as it assists in the assessment).
  • Step 2: assess the damage – is it fair wear and tear (the natural deterioration that is expected to be seen in a property over time, e.g. Faded curtains, chipped paint, rusting gutters from rain, etc) or is the damage due to negligence or intention on the part of the tenant (e.g. broken windows, missing locks, unapproved tenant paint job).
  • Step 3: look at the lease agreement and confirm who is responsible with regards to the damages – i.e. replacing of missing keys, replacing of light bulbs etc. Organise a repairer.
  • Step 4: Notify your tenant of the damages and provide a quote to have same repaired. If the tenant has not responded, the landlord can go ahead with repairing the damages and can either deduct the costs from the deposit or claim any amounts due from the tenant.
  • Step 5: Account to the tenant – show what has been paid, and effect refund of whatever of the deposit remains in trust.


If your tenants are giving you a headache, contact our legal experts at Hammond Pole Attorneys today.


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