Accountant- realtor- landlord Tanya Lieven faces third tribunal for threatening to sue tenant

By Jeremy Wilkinson of

Accountant doing financial records

When a foreign affairs staffer heard that Saudi Arabian officials were going to be viewing his rented apartment he had his landlord trespassed after she refused to recognise his security concerns.

That led to the property’s landlord, Tanya Lieven, who was also the realtor attempting to sell it, accusing him of “political interference” and attempting to stop the Saudi government from purchasing the property.

Lieven, who is also a chartered accountant, is now facing a third tribunal over the same incident which occurred in 2019.

It’s a saga that has worked its way through the Tenancy Tribunal and the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal (READT) already after the former tenant complained to both tribunals, with the latter issuing a censure and a $3000 fine last year.

Lieven has since unsuccessfully appealed both findings and the High Court upheld two charges of unsatisfactory conduct concerning a threat to sue her tenant and a failure to demonstrate sound knowledge of the Residential Tenancies Act.

Now, the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants is taking a third bite of the cherry and its Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) is prosecuting Lieven before its disciplinary tribunal.

On Wednesday, that tribunal convened in Wellington to consider charges against Lieven which essentially piggybacked off the findings of the READT in that the PCC allege her conduct towards her tenant also brought discredit to the accounting profession.

The charges accuse Lieven of misconduct in a professional capacity, conduct unbecoming of an accountant, and breaching the NZICA’s code of ethics.

Saudi Spat

According to the facts of the READT decision issued last year, Lieven was both the landlord of the property, as well as the real estate agent who was selling the home. While she does not own the property, situated in Wellington’s Roseneath which overlooks Oriental Bay, she is the beneficiary of a trust which does.

She informed the existing tenants in 2019 that the house would be required for viewings between business hours, Monday to Friday; to which her tenant, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs staffer whose name is suppressed, said he required 48 hours’ notice.

In response, Lieven said that the shorter notice was legal and given in her capacity as the real estate agent, not as the landlord.

“Just to be clear, we don’t need your permission,” Lieven told the man in a series of emails, “You have been provided notice effective immediately with times and days,” she said. “That’s notice.”

“You have had notice. This week [the Saudi government] are viewing the property along with their purchase delegation, their security staff, their Ambassador and diplomatic security squad,” Lieven wrote back, also citing that the tenants were required to comply by law.

After further emails back and forth in which the tenant detailed his security concerns, he eventually issued Lieven with a trespass notice until they could come to an agreement.

“Then I’ll sue you for each and every loss. The sale price is $8 million,” she replied.

The Saudi entourage never ended up viewing the property.

‘Stop obstructing justice’

At the Institute of Chartered Accountants headquarters in Wellington, Lieven submitted a brief of evidence which questioned how her conduct as a realtor had anything to do with her practice as an accountant.

“I had a dispute with tenants (which had no relation whatsoever to my work as a chartered accountant) which went through the proper channels (in which only lesser alternative charges were found proved against me) exercised my right of appeal under the law and have fully abided by all orders made,” her evidence reads.

“I have never tried to hide the dispute with the tenants which led to the READT decision.”

She said that she was obligated to advise her tenant that he was interfering with the sale of the property and was potentially opening himself up to legal action.

One of the charges before the tribunal is that Lieven contravened its code of ethics in her communications with her tenants and also across some 51 emails she sent to an NZICA investigator.

“I think we should let the criminal law deal with you and the institute in its full force,” one of those emails to the investigator read.

“STOP obstructing justice and conspiring to do so….Do your job.”

She also claimed that the institute had failed to conduct an independent investigation and provide justice or impartiality and referenced in a disparaging way another chartered accountant against whom she had laid her own complaint.

Under questioning today Lieven said part of her frustration with the investigator was that she felt the institute wasn’t investigating her own complaint and that she was being punished for complaining in the first place.

“The institute is not upholding its own rules against its own,” she said.

NZME understands the institute has deferred to the police to investigate Lieven’s complaint in the first instance.

Another aspect of the charge is that Lieven refused to provide the investigator with a copy of the High Court decision upholding the READT ruling.

Counsel for the PCC, Richard Moon, told the tribunal that the breach of the code of ethics was the more serious of the two charges.

“It’s a simple case factually but it’s an important one,” he said.

“This is a sustained and serious breach over a number of months and years.”

Moon said the code of ethics outlined how accountants were expected to act with courtesy and professionalism and that NZICA deserved a “basic common courtesy”.

The tribunal will issue its own finding in writing in due course.

* This story originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald.

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According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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