The long-awaited overhaul of tenancy laws was announced on Sunday. Some of the key proposed changes to NZ Residential Tenancies Act include:
- double the threshold for damages claims at the Tenancy Tribunal,
- renters can do more to change properties,
- anonymised Tenancy Tribunal rulings,
- an end to no-cause evictions,
- a ban on rental bidding.
- limiting rent rises to once-yearly, up from six months.
The new laws, expected to be passed by Parliament in the new year, will automatically now assume that a ‘periodic tenancy’ will begin at the end of a fixed term lease. So if a lease ends after 12 months, it is assumed that the tenant will stay on a “periodic” (open-ended) tenancy from there on in, without needing to sign another fixed term agreement. Landlords can ask tenants to go onto a new fixed-term agreement, but the tenant has to agree.
Landlords will not be able to end a periodic agreement except for specific reasons such as selling the house, doing major renovations, three complaints of anti-social behaviour or more than three instances of rent being paid more than five days late over a 90 day period.
Renters who enter into a dispute with landlords and are successful in defending a claim or having their rights upheld, will now have their identities removed from tenancy tribunal decisions, if they choose, before the determinations are given. This is designed to protect tenants from being later penalised for being difficult by a potential future landlord. The same anonymised option will apply to landlords
Landlords who do not comply with the Residential Tenancy Act will now be liable for payouts from the Tenancy Tribunal of up to $100,000 up from $50,000. Previously damages over $50,0000 had to go to the district court. The regulator, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment will also be able to make a single application against a landlord over a number of properties.
Landlords will not be able to able to start a bidding process for new rentals, however, if prospective tenants want to offer above the asking price, they will still be allowed to initiate a higher rent offer, which the landlord will be allowed to accept.
Landlords will also have to provide records proving that their homes meet healthy homes standards if the tenant requests them.
Landlords will also not be able to refuse requests for small changes to fittings that tenants wish to make that can be easily removed at the end of a tenancy. These could include fittings as a baby gates, baby proofing, curtains and installing dishwashers and washing machines.
If a tenancy is ended for a valid reason, such as a landlord selling a house, the landlord will now need to provide 63 days of notice – up from 42.
We will continue with updates about these changes as more information comes to hand. If you have any questions please call our office to discuss.