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26 January 2021

Modernising NZ's Rental Laws - what you need to know

Phase two of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 (Act) will take effect on 11 February 2020. The Act has introduced new laws that affect both tenants and landlords.

The first phase took effect on the 11 August 2020 making transitional and emergency housing exempt from the Act and limiting rent increases to once every 12 months (previously once every six months).

Changes under phase two will take effect on 11 February 2021 so it is important to know what your rights and responsibilities are;

The Landlord

•             Ban on rental bidding: Landlords must advertise rental properties with a rental price and cannot invite or encourage tenants to bid on the rental. This will ensure tenants do not pay more than the advertised rent amount.

•             Change of tenant: If a residential tenancy agreement allows for a change in tenant during the tenancy the Landlord must consider all applications and cannot decline an application unreasonably.

•             Landlord records: It is unlawful to not provide a written tenancy agreement and landlords need to retain and provide new types of information.

•             Security of rental tenure: Landlords cannot end a periodic tenancy without cause by providing 90 days’ notice. New termination grounds are available to landlords under a periodic tenancy and the required notice periods have changed.*

The Tenant

•             Making minor changes: Tenants can request to make changes to the property and landlords must not decline if they are minor changes. Landlords must respond to a request to make a change within 21 days.

•             Fibre broadband: Tenants can request to install fibre broadband, and landlords must agree if it can be installed at no cost to them, unless specific exemptions apply.

•             Changes for fixed-term tenancies: All fixed-term tenancy agreements will convert to periodic tenancies at the end of the fixed-term unless the parties agree otherwise, the tenant gives a 28-day notice, or the landlord gives notice in accordance with the termination                 grounds for periodic tenancies.*

Changes to Government Services

•             Enforcement measures being strengthened: The Regulator, being the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, will have new ways to take action against the tenant or landlord who are not meeting their obligations.

•             Changes to Tenancy Tribunal jurisdiction: The Tenancy Tribunal can hear cases and make awards up to $100,000 (previously $50,000).

•             Privacy and access to justice: A suppression order to remove names and identifying details from published Tenancy Tribunal decisions will be granted if the suppression order application is wholly or substantially successful, or if it is in the interests of the parties and                 public interest.

The final phase is due to take effect on 11 August 2021 and will create options for tenants experiencing family violence and landlords who have been physically assaulted by their tenant.

Navigating your rights and responsibilities under new laws can sometimes be hard to do on your own. So please do not hesitate to get in touch with any questions regarding your current or future residential tenancy agreements.

*A periodic tenancy, rather than a fixed term tenancy, is one that continues until either the tenant or the landlord gives written notice to end it.

 

Special note - the primary contributor to this article was Eva Hansen, Summer Clerk 2020/21.

 

DISCLAIMER

The above information is of a general nature only. The information in this article does in no way constitute legal advice and all readers should contact a law firm for advice relating to your specific circumstances.

 

Chris Boivin

About Chris Boivin

Chris is a Partner advising clients on a wide range of matters. He assists with both commercial, rural and residential property matters, as well as business transactions and asset planning.

View all posts by Chris Boivin