Tania Leiven

PHOTO: Tanya Lieven is appealing the tribunal’s finding in the High Court. Photo / Facebook

A landlord, who had decided to sell a block of residential units, informed her tenants that she would be bringing potential buyers through the property at any time during regular business hours. However, when one of the tenants expressed concerns about this arrangement, she asserted that she did not require their permission, citing prior notice as justification.

The situation escalated, leading to the tenant temporarily barring her from the property while they attempted to resolve the matter. In response, the landlord issued a threat to sue the tenant for any potential financial losses related to the sale of the upscale Wellington property, which she claimed could reach $8 million.

This dispute began with Tanya Lieven, who also worked as a real estate agent, sending an email to her tenants, notifying them that she had listed the properties for sale and would be arranging property viewings.

One of the tenants replied, requesting a 48-hour notice period before allowing anyone into his residence. This request triggered a series of exchanges between the tenant and Lieven, eventually leading to her threat of legal action.

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“I want to clarify that we do not require your consent,” Lieven informed the tenant through a series of emails, which have recently been made public by the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal. “You have been provided immediate notice with specified times and days. That constitutes notice,” she asserted. She went on to explain that the property was for sale, and the tenants were obligated under the Residential Tenancies Act to comply. She also mentioned that potential buyers would be inspecting the property the following day.

The tenant at the Roseneath property in Wellington subsequently asked for specific viewing times, later amending his request to a 24-hour notice with weekend viewings subject to individual agreements. “You have been given notice,” Lieven reiterated via email when the tenant repeated his request for notice. She insisted that the notice she had provided was “valid and binding.”

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The email exchanges continued, leading the tenant to issue a trespass notice to Lieven, prohibiting her from entering the house until they could reach an agreement. In response, she threatened legal action: “Then I’ll sue you for any and all losses. The purchase price is $8 million.”

Lieven did not respond to further emails from the tenant inquiring about mediation. Consequently, the tenant took the matter to the Tenancy Tribunal, which found that Lieven’s conduct constituted a “direct threat” when she indicated her intention to sue the tenant.

The tribunal adjudicator awarded the tenant $1500 in compensation and exemplary damages. It was also determined that Lieven had misunderstood the rules of the Residential Tenancies Act, which cover a landlord’s right to enter the premises and the requirement to give notice to occupants once a property is listed for sale.

Lieven’s appeal of the ruling in the Wellington District Court was unsuccessful. Subsequently, the tenant filed a complaint with the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal (READT), which handles complaints related to realtor conduct.

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Nearly three years later, the READT found Lieven guilty of unsatisfactory conduct, imposing a $3000 fine, issuing a censure for her actions, and mandating that she undergo training regarding the legal issues that realtors encounter in their profession.

Lieven expressed her intention to appeal the READT’s decision in the High Court. She argued that the tenant was aware of the property’s impending sale and chose to renew their lease regardless, claiming that their actions had negatively impacted the entire sale process.

She emphasized that informing someone that they are interfering in contractual relations is not harassment or a threat, but rather a statement of fact. She asserted that she did not enter the property, nor did any potential buyers, due to the tenant’s obstruction.

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The tenant’s identity was not disclosed in the decision. In its findings, the READT concluded that Lieven had demonstrated an inadequate understanding of the Residential Tenancies Act and had attempted to misrepresent the legislation’s correct interpretation during the tribunal proceedings. It was determined that Lieven should have possessed a better understanding of her obligations under the act and that her overall conduct fell short of what the public should expect from a competent licensee. As a result, the tribunal issued a censure.