Proactive and forward thinking.

In the rapidly changing world of law, it pays to be just this.

Harris Tate is one of Tauranga’s most trusted and experienced law firms.  You can rely on our friendly team to provide the very best expertise.

With a proven track record in securing client goals, we take the time to make sure you understand and receive clear, concise advice that is both sound in law and works in the real world.

Proactive and forward thinking.

About Us

We know that choosing a law firm is not an easy task.
So why not make the simple choice and pick a firm where you matter?

At Harris Tate we treat clients as individuals – with the friendliness, respect and attention each deserves – while getting the best results for you.

Personal or business law; family, elder, business, franchise, employment, property and immigration law; or dispute resolution and litigation; we have all bases covered.

We live and breathe law and believe a good day at the office is when we have achieved a great result for you. Always working with your best interests at heart, through communicating and listening to your goals, we clearly navigate you through the legal system.

Or how we like to see it, smart law and intelligent advice.

About Us

Our Story

Originally founded by Ross Harris in 1980 before partnering with Alan Tate in 1995, Harris Tate has become one of Tauranga’s most trusted law firms driven by its passion to provide people with smart , intelligent advice with excellent service.

Clients are at the heart of our business. With that in mind we like to think we are a good combination of professionalism, approachability, commitment, and energy.

We are an agile firm with the right sized team of both lawyers and legal professionals driven by a love of law, and helping clients get the best outcomes.

Each day the team at Harris Tate aims to deliver a legal service that is cutting edge and professional.

Our Story

Our People

David Foster, Director

David Foster, Director

David is our workplace franchise guru with more than 20 years experience behind him. As the past-Chairman of the Franchise Association of New Zealand his expertise lies in areas of commercial, franchising and property practice. But don’t let this tough business exterior fool you.

Known around the office for his old school demeanour, David is diligent, direct and to the point. And though he doesn’t like to waste time on chit-chat, he has an ability to find the time to regale elaborate stories of the past.

He is at his happiest when he's delivering excellent service and providing quality outcomes for his clients. David’s ability to maintain sound relationships is shown in his huge network of contacts, some dating back to his Auckland boys’ school days, and a fantastic rapport with his clients – a testimonial to the large amount of Christmas cards he gets each year (and yes, there is a competition).

David is also our resident Notary Public, he takes swearing an oath or witnessing official documents very seriously.

Phone: 07 571 3668

Katrina Hulsebosch, Director

Katrina Hulsebosch, Director

Competition breeds success and while she might not like to admit it, Katrina, or Kat, brings a distinctive competitive edge to the firm – especially if you talk to the other directors. Each day Kat can be found searching for the most efficient and cost-effective result for her clients, something she gets a kick out of. Though she vouches it isn’t so much a competitive streak rather high standards and expectations.

Despite her exceptionally professional and resilient approach, Kat's down-to-earth and caring approach shines through in her deep compassion and empathy for her clients.

She is a competent, fast moving professional who loves nothing more than giving a sound legal advice.

Kat specialises in business advisory, insolvency, immigration, estate planning and elder law.

Phone: 07 928 0881

Grant Harris, Director

Grant Harris, Director

Law is in the blood when it comes to the Harris family with Grant following in his father Ross’s footsteps. Born and bred in Tauranga, soon after graduating he packed his bags and headed overseas, carving out a career abroad including more than 8 years at major international law firms in the UK.

With a great eye for detail and extremely thorough, Grant is famed within the office as being the ‘process man’ given the vast amount of process forms he has introduced (a move both loved and loathed by colleagues!).

Grant's practical, dependable and hugely intelligent reputation goes before him, which is coupled with a great sense of humour. He is a hugely experienced property investor, President of Tauranga Property Investors Association and assists Harris Tate’s property syndicate and unit title development.

With a direct and analytical demeanor it’s Grant’s love of detail that allows him to achieve excellent outcomes for his clients.

Phone: 07 571 3666

Oliver Moorcroft, Director

Oliver Moorcroft, Director

He might not be able to solve a rubix cube in under a minute (well he hasn’t told us he can) but Oliver will give it a good crack, he is an expert problem solver.

Oliver (you can call him Ollie) is our leader for all civil litigation, relationship property, disputes, and employment disputes.

With experience in all areas of disputes resolution (alternate or the traditional court system), primarily in construction, relationship property, personal insolvency and employment matters, Ollie gets a thrill out of solving difficult problems and achieving the results his clients are after.

A spin off of that is he is not so quietly confident and while others around the office believe this might be a prerequisite for being a litigator, Ollie shamelessly takes this in his stride.

Ollie has an ability to focus on the client’s problem, and solution, not the dispute itself and will do everything to solve each individual client case in order to achieve practical commercial outcomes.

Phone: 07 571 3663


Ross Harris, Consultant

Ross Harris, Consultant

As founding partner of Harris Tate, Ross’s expertise is extensive and varied. He's particularly known for his ability to define and pursue the nub of issues and negotiate proficiently.

Ross has 45 years of practical experience across much of the law, and is a life member of the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce.

Phone: 07 571 3660

Alan Tate, Consultant

These days Alan works part-time as a consultant with Harris Tate, popping in as and when required. He also is the resident beekeeper tending to the hives behind the office at Harris Tate and making our honey.

Alan’s background knowledge of his clients and practical advice is invaluable, so it’s no surprise that Alan continues to maintain a very loyal client base.

Alan remains heavily involved in local iwi trusts and as a founding member of the firm. 

Phone: 07 578 0059


Michelle Carabine, Associate

Michelle Carabine, Associate

When it comes to immigration issues, it pays to have someone fighting in your corner who knows the rules.

That person is Michelle, our resident immigration expert and recently appointed sole Associate.

Michelle acts for and advises migrant clients in relation to residency (investor) applications. She holds a Graduate Certificate in New Zealand Immigration Advice and also specialises in commercial law.

A multi-talented lawyer, she seamlessly divides her time between our specialist immigration team, and helping with commercial and property law issues.

She is tenacious at solving tricky legal problems, a trait her clients hold in high regard. Michelle is relatable and approachable, but also has the ability to grab the bull by the horns to achieve the best outcomes.

Phone: 07 571 3664

Nicole Wong, Solicitor

Nicole Wong, Solicitor

Nicole is an integral cog in the wheel that is our immigration team, especially with our growing Chinese client base.

She is fluent in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay, Indonesian and Hakka – meaning nothing is lost in translation with our clients.

A graduate of Canterbury Law School, but now calling Tauranga home, Nicole is actively involved in the local Chinese community.

Specialising in conveyancing, immigration and commercial matters Nicole reflects Harris Tate’s values of putting clients at the heart of our business. She is dedicated to meeting the requirements and preferences of our Chinese clients as she advises them fully and appropriately in the appropriate language.

Phone: 07 571 3661

John Delaney, Solicitor

John Delaney, Solicitor

John can be found ensconced in the inner sanctum of dispute resolution, or as he likes to put it, “the team that gets the files that no-one else likes".

A perfect fit for John, or JD as he's known around the office, he's spent his entire working life resolving disputes. Previously a trade union negotiator representing doctors, an HR Manager, and a qualified mediator, you name it John has done it.

His varied legal experience gives him a good grasp of what it takes to build and sustain good relationships and a sharp eye for disputes when they arise.

However, he'd be the first to say that these skills are yet to rub off on parenthood – his children are reluctant to play ball. Oh, and he hates losing on the football field.

Always up for a challenge and helping clients out, John brings tolerance and a sense of fairness to our firm.

Phone: 07 928 0884

Jess Holtom, Trust Manager

Jess Holtom, Trust Manager

Jess has more than 15 years legal experience under her belt, and as a Legal Executive is our encyclopaedia about trusts and how trusts integrate – though we can’t confirm whether she swallowed the book.

Her sound knowledge and practical advice allows Jess to get to the heart of the problem quicker than most and is a vital component of our legal team.

Jess achieves the required result and gets a real buzz out of making a complicated scenario fit with her client’s wishes. Jess is highly dependable and uses her expansive knowledge and analytical prowess to make it work for her clients every time.

Phone: 07 928 0880    

Lesley Monteiro, Legal Executive

Lesley Monteiro, Legal Executive

Despite deciding to retire after more than 35 years with Harris Tate, we are lucky to have Lesley stay with our team as a Consultant.

Such experience and knowledge is an invaluable asset to the firm, with Lesley providing sound legal advice, as well as being the firm’s grammar coach (an important position for which we are yet to hold interviews).

She holds a Legal Executive Certificate and is a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Legal Executives. Lesley is one of three Legal Executives with more than 20 years of service to the firm.

Phone: 07 571 3662

Brierley Conquer, Legal Executive

Brierley Conquer, Legal Executive

Brierley is a Legal Executive with a keen eye for detail.

With more than 25 years of experience in property transactions, including subdivisions and finance, she takes pleasure in putting complex and sometimes confusing legal matters in the simplest terms possible.

With a love of fast cars and a great sense of humour to boot she brings a real edge to Grant’s team.

Brierley is a real people person and doesn’t need to look far for motivation each day, kept busy with children, exercising the dogs and knowing she is part of a happy workplace.

Phone: 07 928 0883

Glenice Ryan, Legal Executive

Glenice Ryan, Legal Executive

Glenice forms the final component of our trio of long-standing Legal Executives, so it’s fair to say she knows how the firm ticks and what works well.

Hailing from right here in Tauranga she is David’s right hand woman assisting with conveyancing and a real whiz on financing matters. She also works with Brierley with subdivisions and section sales.

Phone: 07 571 3665

Tash Ogilvy, Legal Executive

Tash Ogilvy, Legal Executive

At Harris Tate we pride ourselves on being fast and efficient, but there is one member of the team that either takes this more seriously than the rest or just finds it a breeze – we can’t tell. That person is Natasha, or Tash.

Tash is our conveyancing gun with a professional approach to her areas of property and commercial practice.

While she is a bit of a tough nut and at times stands for no nonsense, Tash can have a good laugh too.

Phone: 07 928 0889

Sarah Lawson, Law Clerk and Licensed Conveyancer

Sarah Lawson, Law Clerk and Licensed Conveyancer

Employed as a Law Clerk and qualified as a Licensed Conveyancing Practitioner, Sarah works closely with David Foster on all aspects of conveyancing, estate planning and trusts and has been working in the legal field for 7 years.

Sarah specialises in property law and really relishes working with clients helping them achieve their goals. Whilst she works full time, Sarah is also studying for her Law Degree through Waikato University. Effectively, this means Sarah really does meet the “living and breathing the law” definition! Her desire for continual learning and growth within law is a testament to her dedication and consistently professional approach.

Phone: 07 928 0887

Andrea Lilley, Legal Executive

Andrea Lilley, Legal Executive

With her wakeboard and life jacket neatly tucked under her desk, Andrea is the latest recruit for Harris Tate’s extreme sports team.

But thankfully she doesn’t have her sights set on the X Games, instead as one of our Legal Executives working closely with Katrina on all aspects of conveyancing, and Trusts and Estates. 

After more than four years in delving into family law, Andrea has made the shift across to conveyancing. A move she has taken to like a duck to water, enjoying the structured process it brings in helping deliver expert advice for her clients.

And if her clean record of no broken bones in wakeboarding is anything to go by, Andrea has the precision and eye for detail that help her provide sound legal advice that will smooth otherwise potentially rough waters.

In her spare time she can be found kicking back alongside her husband Jared and their pitbull staffie cross Hans. She also has a passion for travel and is an avid car enthusiast.

You can be assured Andrea will meticulously guide you step-by-step through the legal process and ensure there are no ‘wipeouts’.

Phone: 07 571 3669

Robyn Smillie, Practice Manager

Robyn Smillie, Practice Manager

Every firm needs a Mr Fix It, or in our case a Mrs Fix It.

Meet Robyn our Practice Manager who keeps a close eye on the whole office. From administration to fixing a simple computer problem or completing the company’s financials, Robyn has the answer.

Unflappable and a great multi-tasker are two descriptions that instantly spring to mind when you think of Robyn – valuable skills when dealing with her children, and the firm’s directors.

Nothing gives her more of a sense of achievement than getting the daily ‘To Do List’ ticked off, which happens on the odd occasion.

The three F’s – Family, Food and Fun – are a big part of what makes Robyn tick. And if ever you're in need of a question to be answered, Robyn’s unmistakable and loud laugh will lead you right to her.

Phone: 07 928 0882


Harris Tate has long been a name synonymous with providing top quality legal service in Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty.

For more than twenty years we have been acting on behalf of business owners and their families who have turned to us for legal advice. It is this quality legal advice delivered in an exceptional way that sets us apart from the rest.

Our established, and experienced team, are highly regarded in their respective fields, helping underpin Harris Tate’s sound reputation in the legal sector.

Our areas of expertise:

Personal and Family We understand that most people find the process of protecting their family or property, or just getting their affairs in order, a daunting prospect.

Personal and Family

Elder Law Your twilight years should be a time when you follow your passions and dreams - not a time for constantly facing question marks.

Elder Law

We have a long tradition of helping clients achieve peace of mind with sound legal advice, making the transition as seamless as possible.

Business Business makes the world go around, but businesses come in different shapes and sizes.


Whether you are just starting out or are a large company, we get to know the core of your business. This allows us to identify the potential risk areas, while providing smart business solutions as we go.

We can help you in all areas in commercial law including liquidation and receivership.

Franchise As the Bay of Plenty’s long-standing and leading franchise experts we know this can be a complex web of terms and conditions. We deal with the fine print so you won’t get caught out.


Our legal franchise experts can coach you through all aspects of franchising and business advice. From creating new franchise systems, managing existing set-ups, handling disputes, and advising prospective franchisees, we have the experience for you.

Employment At Harris Tate we know you are busy running a business, which is why we support you in building successful employment relationships where each party clearly understands their rights and obligations.


Our employment team can keep you up-to-date with all the “need to knows” of employment law so you don't miss  a beat when it comes to operating within the legal frameworks. 

They are the people to turn to if things go wrong in the workplace and can assist with health and safety legal issues.

Insolvency / Bankruptcy Being financially in the red can make you blue.

Insolvency / Bankruptcy

At Harris Tate we know this can take its toll, that’s why we come up with creative ways to ensure you stay financially stable. We specialise in both commercial and personal insolvency or bankruptcy.

In other words we are your damage control team helping you deal with debt without fatal damage to your reputation.

Property Buying a family home is often the biggest investment in a lifetime.


Making sure you feel secure in the legal advice you are receiving at such a time is essential. At Harris Tate we’ll take all the fuss out of buying and selling property, while providing you with insights and knowledge you need to make informed decisions.

The property team is responsible for working clients through a range of property transactions. These include, purchase agreements, commercial lease, building contracts, mortgagee sales, and subdivisions.

Relationship Property Breaking up, it is one of those uncomfortable parts that can occur in life and adding to this emotional weight is dividing up your collective assets as you part ways.

Relationship Property

Put your emotion aside and let the competent and confident team at Harris Tate guide you through the complex division of relationship property and ensure you are protected. 

We can advise you on putting asset protection structures in place, including contracting out agreements (pre-nups) that will help protect your wealth from future property relationship claims.

By ‘untangling’ these issues in advance, you are no longer tied to an ex-partner/spouse and can move forward with your life.

Litigation and Dispute Resolution Personal, property or business issues can often get messy and out of hand, so it pays to have sound commercial advice from the start.

Litigation and Dispute Resolution

Our expertise in mediation and advising on and resolving disputes is extensive.

We specialise in court litigation, and while resolution is the ultimate goal we will protect your reputation through negotiations. We provide personal and commercial legal advice which is tailored to your particular problem.

Immigration For new residents to New Zealand immigration policies can be a headache at times.


We have an immigration team who can clear up this hassle by providing the best and clearest legal advice for those wanting to make a new life for themselves and their family in New Zealand.

Our team is the Bay of Plenty’s leading lawyers in all immigration matters.

Notary Public You should never feel rushed when it comes to non-contentious matters of the law.

Notary Public

David Foster our resident Notary Public will take the hassle out of any issues you are having with:

  •  Estate deeds 
  • Powers of Attorney 
  • Foreign and International Business

If you require documents to be notarised or other notarial services please contact David for an appointment.

Harris Tate is a member of the Australian and New Zealand College of Notaries.


What Our Clients Say

Clean Paleo Ryan Kamins

Ryan Kamins

Oliver and the team at Harris Tate have been a tremendous help to CleanPaleo since we were founded.

As a fast growing company, it is imperative for us to receive timely and accurate legal advice, and this has always been delivered. Oliver was responsive, professional and always willing to go the extra mile.

From basic contracts to larger commercial negotiations and transactions, the team has always shown a lot of care and put a lot of thought into getting the best results for us.

We see Harris Tate as an influential part in helping to smoothly grow our business.

Ryan Kamins, Clean Paleo

Ryan Kamins

Tony Han Optometrist Tony Han

Tony Han

Harris Tate has been a great find for me. Katrina, our solicitor since we moved to Tauranga, provides a refreshing approach with sound legal advice. Before then I had never enjoyed dealing with lawyers.

Family is a big thing for me, and Katrina’s ability to balance her professionalism and amicable nature means she feels more like a family friend than a lawyer. We know we can ask for help rather than advice and in a hassle-free manner.

Being a mother herself, Katrina is accustomed to relaying knowledgeable advice in legal matters based on our needs from a family point of view.

I would happily recommend Katrina and Harris Tate to anyone looking for legal advice.

Tony Han, Tony Han Optometrist,


Tony Han

GJ Gardner Homes Shane McConnell

Shane McConnell

As part of one of New Zealand’s most trusted building brands, it pays to have the right team around you to build success. And that includes the right law firm.

For the last seven years Harris Tate has been an integral part of the GJ Gardner Tauranga team, offering smart, capable and no-nonsense legal advice that gets the required results.

Katrina and her team are very personable, approachable and are fantastic to work with. From the moment you sit down with them you are at ease and know they are in your corner and ready to help.

As a 100% locally owned and operated business, what we liked from the outset was Harris Tate’s small, yet experienced, and trusted, team who are never too busy to listen. Back then, and still today, you get that personal service and good practical down-to-earth advice.

In essence, Harris Tate offers experience and advice that works in the real world.

Harris Tate is a great law firm and we are proud to have them as part of our team.

Shane McConnell, GJ Gardner Homes  

Shane McConnell

McLeod Cranes Scott and Peter McLeod

Scott and Peter McLeod

Working with a reliable, reputable company that does everything to meet the needs of its clients is extremely important to keep ahead of the ever changing environment in which we work.

That’s why for more than 10 years we have aligned ourselves with Harris Tate, a firm that is testament to these qualities.

In that time, the firm has provided us with professional, friendly advice with a commitment to getting the right results, with minimal stress for our company first and foremost.

One of the benefits of working with Harris Tate is that it has specialists covering all aspects of business law. There is only one phone call necessary to having our query resolved, saving us precious time.

We look forward to continuing our relationship with Harris Tate and thank them for their support and expertise both past and present.

Scott & Peter McLeod, McLeod Cranes

Scott and Peter McLeod

McDonalds Tauranga John and Sonya Warder

John and Sonya Warder

Harris Tate are second to none when it comes to legal professionalism, and in our case franchise advice.

Right from our first meeting with David, we were put at ease by someone who is trustworthy, dependable and always willing to support us on our business journey.

David, with more than 20 years franchise experience behind him, is a real asset to have and someone so knowledgeable in New Zealand franchising.

Through our entire business relationship he was always responsive and detail oriented which allowed us to stay focused on the day-to-day running of our business and not get distracted with legal details.

A big thank you to David and the team at Harris Tate.

John & Sonya Warder, McDonalds

John and Sonya Warder

Westbay Waratahs Gill and Graham Lett

As long standing clients of Harris Tate we have come to value their impeccable service. 

For more than 15 years the team at Harris Tate have excelled at always being extremely helpful, courteous and considerate, no matter the requirements.

In particular taking care of many of our enquiries, some of which have been incredibly urgent and dealing with these quickly and efficiently in a polite and friendly manner.

More recently we have become clients of Katrina Hulsebosch, one of the shining examples of Harris Tate’s professional, caring and knowledgeable solicitors.

No matter the situation, when dealing with Katrina for many different purposes in the last two years we have always been put at ease and know our legal requirements are in safe hands.

We would like to sincerely thank Katrina for all her time and effort, for always making us feel important and never making anything feel like it is too much trouble.  

We would wholeheartedly recommend Katrina and Harris Tate to any business or individual in need of legal help.

Carrus Corporation Ltd Carrus - Scott Adams

For the last 25 years, Harris Tate has been synonymous with sound legal advice for our family. 

What started as a relationship between my father, Paul Adams, and Harris Tate founder Ross Harris has blossomed into a strong connection, with Harris Tate advising on past and present subdivisions and developments throughout the North Island for us.

As we enter a new period, a changing of the guard – the next generation (including myself) are continuing to build on those rock-solid ties and professional history.

With a dedicated team of professionals lead by four outstanding directors – David Foster, Grant Harris, Oliver Moorcroft and Katrina Hulsebosch – behind us every step of the way, no issue or request is too big for Harris Tate.

From a client perspective, it is pleasing to work closely with solicitors who have sound knowledge across all aspects of law, and a commitment to go above and beyond the desired result.

We look forward to another 25 years in partnership.

Kelowna Group Evan McKain

Harris Tate has been through thick and thin with our organisation, corresponding to an in-depth knowledge of our family business. We’ve faced some tough economic adversities, which left our well structured “empire” a crumpled pile of rubble on the boardroom floor. We were very glad then, and are still grateful now, that our pillar of support was Harris Tate.

With far more robust structures around our remaining business assets today, the calm, level-headed support and advice we have gained from Director Grant Harris and his team has been invaluable.

What I am greatly appreciative of, and particularly impressed with, is Harris Tate’s big picture planning, conducted with concern for intimate personal and family details. Grant was never fazed by our growing need to meet and “discuss” options with a variety of receivers, bankers, and other legal firms.

He also went out of his way to meet us onsite when required, so that he could better understand what we were trying to protect and what we were aiming to achieve.

Harris Tate’s expertise, research, knowledge and service is exceptional. Obviously you pay for what you get, but we are happy with our engagement and the value that we receive.

Evan McKain, Kelowna Group


Community is key to a vibrant and thriving city. That is why the team at Harris Tate goes that extra step to ensure we are actively involved in what makes Tauranga tick.

We are people just like you, so we believe in the importance of supporting community programmes and events – whether it is an individual’s sporting goal or a charitable cause.

Click here to read more >


Latest News

Harris Tate promotes Michelle Carabine to Associate 22 September 2016

Harris Tate promotes Michelle Carabine to Associate

We are proud to announce Michelle Carabine has been promoted to associate at our firm.

Michelle has been practicing law at Harris Tate Lawyers since 2015 and becomes the firm’s sole associate. She specialises in immigration matters, acting and advising migrant clients in relation to residency (investor) applications, along with commercial and property law issues.

A multi-talented lawyer, she also advises in areas of property transactions, and sales and acquisitions. She has 10 years legal experience in New Zealand, and a further three in Australia and the UK.

“I adore the team at Harris Tate because they are brilliant, but also because they really care about what they do, which is the most you can hope for in a team,” says Michelle.

“I am genuinely and wholeheartedly thrilled to be made an associate of this dynamic, fast-paced and growing law firm.”

Harris Tate director Katrina Hulsebosch congratulates Michelle on the well-deserved appointment.

“We are delighted to promote Michelle to associate. She is a hard worker and diligent in every aspect of her work.

“Michelle is a perfect fit at Harris Tate and we look forward to watching her flourish in her new role.”

Michelle is a Full Principal Member of the New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment. She has a Bachelor of Laws (LLB), a Bachelor of Arts (English) and a Graduate Certificate in New Zealand Immigration Advice (GCNZIA).

Harris Tate promotes Michelle Carabine to Associate

Time to future-proof your family 16 September 2016

Time to future-proof your family

This month (September) is “Wills Month” which is the perfect time to get acquainted with estate planning and to put a will in place or to update an existing will.

You shouldn’t be afraid of the process that will provide you with piece of mind should you pass away.

In plain English, a will dictates what you want to happen to your assets after you die. It is possible to make changes to it from time to time and it is a good idea to review and update it when there are major changes to your personal or family circumstances – such as a property purchase.

If you don’t leave a will, the Administration Act specifies how your estate is distributed – and this may not be in line with your wishes.

There are three simple things to think about to start the process.

Firstly, decide on a personal representative to administer your estate when you die; second, choose who is to receive what pursuant to your will; thirdly, and where appropriate, who will you appoint as guardian of your minor children?

Having the answers to these questions when you sit down with your lawyer will assist with the process of ensuring your wishes after you die are recorded and are in good hands.

We recommend you seek specialist and legal advice when preparing your will.

- Director Grant Harris 

Published in The Weekend Sun (September 16)

Time to future-proof your family

Methamphetamine Contamination. To test or not to test? 16 September 2016

Methamphetamine Contamination. To test or not to test?

With plenty of publicity both in relation to owner-occupier purchasers buying, and landlords letting, contaminated property, methamphetamine (meth) contamination in rental properties has become a major concern for both landlords and tenants alike.

Recently, pursuant to two separate Tenancy Tribunal rulings in favour of Housing New Zealand, former tenants were ordered to pay $34,000 and nearly $20,000 respectively for remediation cost awards covering initial screening, chemical testing, detailed decontamination and cleaning and re-testing.

Another recent and notable Tenancy Tribunal ruling was against a landlord who unknowingly bought a contaminated property and subsequently rented it out. That landlord was ordered to pay $7500 to refund the tenant’s rent paid during the four months they lived at the property, plus the cost of decontaminating some of the tenant’s belongings.

When can a landlord test for meth contamination?

Notice of an inspection

Experienced residential landlords will no doubt already be aware that under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act) a landlord may enter a premises for the purpose of inspecting the premises at any time between 8am and 7pm on a day specified in a notice and upon giving the tenant not less than 48-hours’ notice, but not more than 14-days’ notice before the intended entry. The tenant doesn’t have to be present during an inspection, but they can if they want to.

Unlawful entry

A landlord who enters a property without meeting the Act’s notice requirements can be committing an unlawful act, with the potential for exemplary damages of $1000 against the landlord by the Tenancy Tribunal, so it is important to ensure the notice requirements under the Act are followed.

At the start and end of a tenancy

The Tenancy Tribunal has ruled that renting out contaminated premises is a breach of a landlord’s obligation to provide a property in a “reasonable state of cleanliness” as required by Section 45(1)(a) of the Act. Failure to provide premises in a reasonable state of cleanliness could lead to $4000 of exemplary damages being awarded against a landlord.

As part of the proper management of rental investments, adopting a prudent “meth management” approach is advisable, which would include carrying out meth tests at the start and at the end of a tenancy in order to establish clear evidence that the property is not contaminated at the start, or whether it has been contaminated during the tenancy.

Regular property inspections – testing during a tenancy

As part of the landlord’s regular property inspections (every three months is advisable) landlords should be keeping their eyes out for warning signs as to indications for meth use (or manufacturing).

You would need to obtain the tenant’s permission should you want to carry out a meth test during the term of tenancy. It would be advisable to include a provision in the tenancy agreement specifying details of when and how the landlord would carry out meth testing.

Whilst the writer is not aware of the Tenancy Tribunal having yet considered its enforceability, such a provision in the tenancy agreement is another sensible step in the landlord’s “meth management” of the property. In addition, it would be prudent to notify your tenant in advance of carrying out any such test.

Can a tenant be evicted for using meth?

Whilst the Act restricts a tenant from using premises for an unlawful purpose, it does not allow for a landlord to terminate a tenancy immediately when meth contamination has been identified in a property.

Noting that whilst the level of contamination may vary greatly depending on the extent of the meth use (or manufacture), section 59A of the Act provides the mechanism for the tenancy to end where, as a result of a breach of the tenancy agreement, a premises are so badly damaged as to be deemed uninhabitable.

Where the landlord has sufficient and reputable evidence that the premises are uninhabitable through meth contamination. i.e., being contaminated above the Ministry of Health’s current 0.5 micrograms per 11 sq cm guideline for habitable premises, the landlord may give the tenant in breach not less than seven days’ notice, terminating the tenancy.

It is worth noting that the Ministry of Health’s current guidelines for determining habitability of a property relate to decontaminated meth labs, but these are the only current Government guideline.

What if a meth user doesn’t leave after termination of the tenancy?

If the tenant remained in the property after expiry of notice to terminate the tenancy (as above) a landlord would need to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for an immediate possession order. When making an application, it would be advisable to let the Tenancy Services staff know of the urgency of the matter.

When a possession order is granted, the District Court bailiff would need to enforce it, with the bailiff then handing possession of the property back to the landlord. If the tenants remained after the landlord receives possession, the landlord should then seek assistance from the police to remove trespassing tenants from the property.              

- Director Grant Harris

Published in UP Magazine (spring edition 2016). 

Methamphetamine Contamination. To test or not to test?

Squeeze goes on property investors under tough new restrictions 19 August 2016

Squeeze goes on property investors under tough new restrictions

Booming house prices are leading to further restrictions on borrowings for property purchasers (both investors and owner-occupiers), a measure which is intended to cool the market.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is currently consulting on new loan-to-value ratio restrictions (LVRs) intended to start from October 1, under which property investors will need a 40 per cent deposit.

New investors and property speculators are expected to be impacted the most under the new LVRs. However, long-term investors with access to high equity in their property portfolio may find opportunities arising from the changes.

At the same time new nationwide restrictions are also proposed for owner-occupier purchasers requiring a 20 per cent deposit which will no doubt have a negative effect on first time buyers.

That said, with the recently announced amendments to the Government's HomeStart scheme, first-home buyers can now earn more and buy more expensive houses, and still qualify for the subsidy, which itself remains unchanged.

The scheme offers a grant of up to $10,000 for an existing house, and $20,000 for a new house to add to a deposit for first-home buyers.

Income caps for the HomeStart grants are now $85,000, up from $80,000, for a single person and $130,000, up from $120,000, for a couple.

In addition to the above proposed LVR restrictions, higher income and house price caps were needed because of a rise in wages and residential property prices since the scheme was first announced.

We recommend you seek specialist and legal advice when purchasing property.

(Published in The Weekend Sun - August 19, 2016)

Squeeze goes on property investors under tough new restrictions

Spick and span advice from award-winning franchise 12 August 2016

Spick and span advice from award-winning franchise

One look at Paramount Services’ brimming trophy cabinet will tell you the company is no stranger to offering not only an exceptional service but also quality franchise opportunities.

So when general manager and director Paul Brown imparts his wisdom at the next meeting of the Franchise Association of New Zealand, all prospective and current franchisors and franchisees should take note.

Founded in 1979, Paramount Services is now a nationwide commercial cleaning services provider with 167 franchise business owners, serving more than 2000 clients.

The company, led by a team of four directors (including Paul) has also clinched a swathe of franchise awards – most recently Westpac Franchise System of the Year at the 2015-2016 Westpac New Zealand Franchise Awards.

At the upcoming meeting, Paul will dissect the national franchise network’s strategy for success, built upon locally developed resource planning software for financials, customer service and quality assurance.

The meeting on August 18 is organised for the Franchise Association of New Zealand by Harris Tate Lawyers, the Bay of Plenty’s franchise lawyers in association with ANZ.

The Franchise Association’s regional coordinator, franchise law expert David Foster, will lead the meeting, designed to assist those looking at entering the world of franchising on expanding their current franchise systems

“This presents a rare opportunity to hear from someone at the heart of one of New Zealand’s leading franchise systems," says David.

“Paramount Services’ successful national franchise network highlights how ditching a hierarchical approach allows exceptional care for both franchisees and clients.”

Spick and span advice from award-winning franchise

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