Amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986

Amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986

Vast Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, What Landlords Need to Know of Their Rights and Obligations to Tenants.

With the increasing number of New Zealanders renting, Parliament has seen it fit to make changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 ("the Act") to ensure renters are occupying warm, dry and liveable properties. The reformed Act looks to strike a balance between providing security and stability to tenants, while protecting landlord interest. It is important that landlords have an understanding of the new obligations and responsibilities the amended legislation imposes upon them, along with the penalties they may incur if not followed.

Key Reform Changes as of February 2021:

1. Periodic Tenancy and Anti-Social Tenant Behaviour: Landlords cannot end periodic tenancy without cause. If a tenant engages in anti-social behaviour, the landlord may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for an order to terminate the tenancy. Within a 90-day period, the tenant must have engaged in anti-social behaviour on three separate occasions. On each occasion, the landlord must have given written notice stating which specific behaviour they deemed to be anti-social, along with stating the date, time and location of which it occurred. Before an Order is granted, the Tribunal must be satisfied that on all occasions, the behaviour is legitimately anti-social.

2. Fixed-Term Tenancies: All fixed-term tenancy agreements will become periodic tenancies at the end of the fixed-term date unless:

• The parties agree otherwise;

• The tenant gives 28-days' notice to terminate the tenancy;

• The landlord gives 90-days' notice to terminate the tenancy.

3. Tenants Request for Minor Changes to the Property: Tenants have the right to request the landlord make minor changes to the property. Landlords may not decline the tenants' request for minor changes and must respond to the request within 21 days of it being made. A "minor change" is classified as any fixture, renovation, alteration, or addition that presents as a low risk of material damage to the premise, imposes no risk to health and safety, does not require Resource or Council consent, and does not harm the structural integrity of the property.

4. Advertisement of Rental Property and Bidding: When advertising a rental property, the landlord must state the rental price. Landlords may not invite or encourage prospective tenants to place a bid which exceeds the rental price they have stated on the advertisement.

5. Installation of Broadband Connection: Tenants have the right to request their landlord install fibre broadband to the rental property, with costs to be covered by the landlord (unless exemptions apply). A landlord must not decline the request for broadband unless  installation materially compromises the weather tightness, character or structural integrity of the building or if a bylaw/body cooperate prohibits it. If a tenant places a written request for installation of broadband, then the landlord must respond to the request within 21-days.

6. Tenancy Assignment: A landlord must consider all requests they receive from potential tenants and must have reasonable grounds to decline them. Residential tenancy agreements that prohibit assignment do not have effect.  For an assignment for tenancy performed by the tenant themselves, they must have prior written approval from the landlord stating permission to do so.

However, if the tenancy agreement relates to social housing and contains provisions expressly prohibiting tenants from assigning tenancy, then this has effect.

7. Tennant Privacy: Decisions involving tenants who have succeeded in matters within the Tenancy Tribunal may not have their personal details published due to Suppression Orders.

8. Tenancy Agreements: Landlords must provide a written tenancy agreement that is signed by both parties before the date of tenancy commences, along with providing both themselves and their tenant with a copy of the agreement.  A landlord who fails to comply with this commits an unlawful act and is liable for a fine or infringement fee between $500.00 - $2,000.00.

9. The Role of the Regulator: In cases of rental properties, the Regulator is The Ministry of Business, Innovation, Employment. The Regulator has powers to issue landlords with infringement offences, improvement notices and enforcement undertakings. This is to ensure that Landlords uphold the obligations they have to their tenants or rectify any breaches they have committed under the Act.

10. Rent Increase: A landlord may only increase rent every twelve months.

11. Tenancy Tribunal Case Hearings: The Tribunal can hear disputes from up to $50,000.00.

Key Reform Changes Coming into Effect on 11 February 2021:

12. Family Violence: Tenants who are victims of family violence have the right to terminate their tenancy within 2-days' notice, without financial penalty being imposed upon them. The tenants' notice must include evidence of family violence taking place within the rental premises, along with including the appropriate prescribed information.

13. Physical Assault: A landlord can issue a 14-day notice to cease tenancy of a fixed-term or periodic agreement if the tenant has assaulted:

• The landlord;

• The property owner;

• A member of the landlords' family;

• The landlords' agent;

• If the Police have laid a charge against the tenant in respect of the assault.

To terminate a tenancy agreement under this premise, evidence of assault must be provided, along with the tenant being advised by the Tribunal on their right to challenge the notice.

The reforms within the Act do not apply to Government funded transitional or emergency housing unless the landlord and tenant decide to partake.  

References

Residential Tenancies Act 1986 Sections 13, 22F, 22G, 42B, 43A, 55AA, 55A, 60AA, 95A, 109B, Schedule 1B.  

Tenancy Services "Tenancy Laws are Changing"

Ministry of Housing and Urban development "Reform of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986"

Please direct any enquiries to:

James Varney (Partner - Albany Office) (jvarney@mcveaghfleming.co.nz) on (09) 966 3608

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© McVeagh Fleming 2021

This article is published for general information purposes only.  Legal content in this article is necessarily of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice.  If you require specific legal advice in respect of any legal issue, you should always engage a lawyer to provide that advice.