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Website: Department of Building & Housing

Diana Clement continues our series on software and technology aids for property investors. Product: Department of Building and Housing (DBH) website Useful, free landlord and tenant information from the Department of Building and Housing.

Monday, January 1st 2007, 12:00AM

by The Landlord

Price: FREE
Overall rating: 3 out of 5

This website is better known to property investors by its old name the “Tenancy Services website”.

The site, published by the New Zealand government, aims to “offer useful advice and information for landlords and tenants who rent their homes”.
It has sections about building, weather tightness, tenancy, and information, trends and data in New Zealand's building and housing environment.
Perhaps the best used section is the tenancy section, which includes downloads and useful information such as:

· Market Rental Prices, recorded from bonds
· Rules and regulations
· A landlord’s introduction to the law
· Details of the Residential Tenancies Act in plain English
· Mediation and Tenancy Tribunal information
· Useful question and answer page
· Links to organisations of use to landlords
· Details of upcoming landlord education seminars

The DBH’s website really isn’t a bad site. It’s nicely designed, pleasant on the eye easy to follow and aimed at the users. At every step, the Tenancy Services website gives alternative telephone and email addresses where appropriate. If for example, you can’t download the pre-letting checklist in PDF format, there’s a telephone number right there to get a hard copy. You can click on either a link or a thumbnail picture of the form.

Interlinking between pages is again good and straightforward enabling user to navigate around. For example on the page explaining how to enforce a mediator or Tenancy Tribunal order there’s a link to a form for finding a new address for someone when you are trying to enforce an order.
All of the documents download as PDF documents. So you’ll need an Adobe Acrobat Reader on your PC. This is a pretty common requirement these days and the program is available free on the Internet. The site publishers have been sensible to add details about the size of the downloads so that if you have a slow computer, you can make a decision whether your computer can cope.
Not every document will suit every landlord and it’s often said that the tenancy agreements provided by Tenancy Services aren’t as robust as those provided by a good property lawyer. Plenty of landlords do use them. The forms are split under headings pre-tenancy, new tenancy, end tenancy, and sorting out problems. The documents include more than 30 useful forms which include:

1. A pre-letting checklist for landlords
2. Pre-tenancy application form
3. Residential tenancy agreement
4. Bond lodgement form
5. Landlord's contact details
6. Rental payments and records
7. Rent summary from start of tenancy
8. Bond refund form
9. Change of landlord/agent and tenant forms
10. A variety of 10-day notices

Other useful forms on the site included:
1. A variety of forms for arrears and repairs
2. Making an application for work order for repairs – using section 78(1)(e)
3. Making an application about abandoned premises - using section 61
4. Dealing with abandoned goods
5. And even an information sheet about Rental properties used in the manufacture of methamphetamine (P)

It’s possible to make a Tenancy Tribunal application online through the website. You must first register, but the process is a very simple one. It requires you to fill in six well-designed screens. You can fill them in and save them in any order. This is much better than scrolling through screen after screen just to find that you didn’t have one detail to hand. Previous applications are stored under your login. You are given an application ID as soon as you start filling out the form, which means you have a reference number. Good stuff.

Even if you’ve not got everything to hand, the system gives you an option to send in at a later date by post. This sort of flexibility is helpful to a user who may not be a techno whiz or for that matter an experienced landlord.

The weather tightness section of the site had useful information about how to keep your property weather tight and it allows you to apply online to the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service. The extensive building section has information about the Building Act, Building Code, compliance documents and information about the consent and inspection process. It’s also possible to apply online for Determinations under the Building Act.

On the downside, I did manage to find a few glitches and grocer’s apostrophes. When I tested the search for “abandonment of goods”, which is a section of the site, the search engine found nothing and returned the statement: “The query contained only ignored words.”

Some of the best stuff was a challenge to find. I had trouble finding links to the Tenancy Tribunal online applications from the Tenancy Tribunal information pages. Instead you need to navigate back to the top of the section and look for a section called: “online tools”. The aforementioned search worked in this instance.

I have heard it said that the quality of forms on this website isn’t up to the standard that you’d get from a lawyer. That may be the marketing spin of lawyers however.

System requirements:
· Internet access
· Adobe Acrobat Reader

Verdict: A pretty website that has a lot of practical information and forms for landlords.

Pros: Free legal documents and helpful advice. The ability to lodge applications for a variety of DBH services online 24-hours a day is very useful indeed. It beats endless Muzak while you’re on hold in the telephone system of a government department.

Cons: Because it is a government website it is relatively vanilla flavoured in an attempt to provide one-size-fits-all information.

« Software: Columbus Property Manager 2.0.3Software: Comparison analysis »

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