The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 is now live and affects both tenants and landlords. Using Tenancy Services as a credible source here’s an overview of the changes tenants need to know as well as roll out timeframes. For further reference, information links have been included at the bottom of the article.
Phase 1: Law changes in effect from 12 August 2020
Transitional and emergency housing - Accommodation provided for these purposes, which is funded by the government or part of a special needs grants programme, is exempt from the Residential Tenancies Act.
Rent increases - Rent increases are limited to once every 12 months. This is a change from once every 180 days (six months). There continues to be a freeze on rent increases. This means landlords cannot increase the rent until after 25 September 2020. Any rent increase notices given to tenants from 12 August must comply with the new 12-month rule.
Phase 2: Law changes to take effect from 11 February 2021
Security of rental tenure - Landlords will not be able to end a periodic tenancy without cause by providing 90 days’ notice. New termination grounds will be available to landlords under a periodic tenancy and the required notice periods have changed.
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.
Making minor changes - Tenants can ask to make changes to the property and landlords must not decline if the change is minor. Landlords must respond to a tenant’s request to make a change within 21 days.
Prohibitions on rental bidding - Rental properties cannot be advertised without a rental price listed, and landlords cannot invite or encourage tenants to bid on the rental (pay more than the advertised rent amount).
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.
Privacy and access to justice - A suppression order can remove names and identifying details from published Tenancy Tribunal decisions if a party who has applied for a suppression order is wholly or substantially successful, or if this is in the interests of the parties and the public interest.
Assignment of tenancies - All requests to assign a tenancy must be considered. Landlords cannot decline unreasonably. If a residential tenancy agreement prohibits assignment, it is of no effect.
Landlord records - Not providing a tenancy agreement in writing will be an unlawful act and landlords will need to retain and provide new types of information.
Enforcement measures being strengthened - The Regulator (the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment) will have new measures to take action against parties who are not meeting their obligations.
Changes to Tenancy Tribunal jurisdiction - The Tenancy Tribunal can hear cases and make awards up to $100,000. This is a change from $50,000.
Phase 3: Law changes to take effect by 11 August 2021 (but may take effect earlier if the Government agrees)
Family violence - Tenants who experience family violence will be able to withdraw from a fixed-term or periodic tenancy without financial penalty by giving two days’ notice and evidence of the family violence. If they are the only tenant, the tenancy will end.
Physical assault - A landlord will be able to issue a 14-day notice to terminate the tenancy if the tenant has assaulted the landlord, the owner, a member of their family, or the landlord’s agent, and the Police have laid a charge against the tenant in respect of the assault.
For more information on the law changes see:
• Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 summary of changes
• Frequently Asked Questions (Ministry of Housing and Urban Development website)
• Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 (NZ Legislation website)
• Rent Increases and reductions