Law changes for tenants and landlords

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The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (“the Act”) sets out the laws all landlords and tenants must comply with in New Zealand.

In three phases, New Zealand is to experience the largest reform of its tenancy laws in thirty-five years. 

The changes will happen at the following key dates:

  • Phase 1: 12 August 2020 (already in force)
  • Phase 2: 11 February 2021
  • Phase 3: By 11 August 2021

Various updates to the Act come into effect today (11 February 2021) and involve changes in rights and obligations for both landlords and tenants.

Changes have been made to the following areas:

  • Security of rental tenure
  • Fixed-term tenancies
  • Making minor changes to the property
  • Prohibitions on rental bidding
  • Requesting Fibre broadband
  • Privacy and access to justice
  • Assignment of tenancies
  • Landlord records
  • Enforcement measures being strengthened
  • Changes to Tenancy Tribunal jurisdiction

The most notable changes include:

Ending a Tenancy

Landlord:

  • Landlords must give a reason for issuing a 90 day notice to terminate the tenancy.
  • There are new timeframes for ending a periodic tenancy –
    • If a landlord or family member of the landlord wants to live in the rental property, they must give 63 days’ notice.
    • If the rental property is being sold, demolished, or having extensive alterations then they must give 90 days’ notice.
  • A landlord may now apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to end a tenancy if the tenant has been at least 5 working days late with rent on three separate occasions over a 90-day period.

Tenant:

  • If a tenant wants to end a periodic tenancy, they must give 28 days’ notice.
  • All requests by a tenant to assign the tenancy over to a new tenant must be considered by the landlord, and the landlord cannot unreasonably refuse to accept the new tenant.

The Rental Property:

Landlord:

  • All rental properties must be advertised with a rental price, and a landlord cannot invite bidding for a rental price.
  • The landlord must ensure there is a tenancy agreement in writing, and this must be signed by both landlord and tenant.

Tenant:

  • Tenants can request to make minor changes to rental properties (e.g., putting up curtains), and landlords cannot decline permission if the change is minor.
  • Tenants can ask for fibre broadband to be installed, and the landlord cannot refuse unless there is a cost to installation, or it will compromise the weather tightness or structural integrity of the house, or it would breach another obligation (e.g., body corporate rules).

The Tenancy Tribunal:

  • Parties can apply for a suppression order to have their name removed from decisions. The order will be granted provided the person was wholly or partly successful in the Tribunal, or if it is in the best interests of the parties and the public interest.
  • The Tribunal can now hear cases and make awards of up to $100,000.

From August 2020, broader changes to the Act will take effect. It is important that both tenants and landlords understand their rights and obligations with the reform in mind.

For further information or assistance on any property or dispute resolution questions relating to this article please contact our team on 06 768 3700.

Authors: Priyaanka Khatri & Jaye Atkin