If a rental property used for a short term holiday is damaged during the stay, what is the liability of the holiday tenant?

Question Details: We recently rented a bach, and during our stay a window was broken. The owners want us to pay an additional amount on top of the bond based on their higher insurance excess when the property is rented. There is no rental agreement that covers what happens if damage occurs. I would like some direction about my rights here and who the liability lies with, considering that a bond has already been paid and that there is no rental agreement for damage.

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Answers by Lawyers

Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

It depends on how the window was broken. If it was broken by a storm or by a burglar, for example, you shouldn't have to pay for it. However from your question we assume that the window was broken by one of the renters. In that case, the renters are liable for the cost of the damage caused.

A short-stay rental agreement doesn't have to specify what happens in the case of damage. And the Residential Tenancies Act (rights for landlords and tenants) doesn't apply to tenancies of less than 28 days. So the usual law about liability for damage applies. In everyday life we are responsible for any damage that we cause or which happens as a result of the actions of other people for whom we are responsible.

If you break a window, you are responsible for the repair. This can be done two ways: either you pay the full cost of the repair, or the owners claim from their insurer and you pay the excess that is not covered by the policy (though the insurer may also ask you to pay for the rest of the damage that you caused - check with your home and contents insurer whether they can help you with this).

If you do not agree on reasonable compensation, the home owners can claim against you in the Disputes Tribunal. Read more here about that process: www.communitylaw.org.nz.

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