Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2010
Effective from 1 October 2010
The law affecting residential landlords and tenants comes under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (RTA). Important changes are contained in the amending legislation which came into force on 1 October 2010. We summarise some of the amendments below.
The RTA imposes responsibilities on both landlord and tenant. Any breach of these obligations can be brought before the Tenancy Tribunal which can make a decision penalising the party in the wrong. This legislation also contains mandatory residential tenancy provisions that cannot be changed, even by agreement between landlord and tenant, for example, a bond payment must be held by the Bond Centre. A new and very important provision in the RTA is:
A landlord who is out of New Zealand for longer than 21 consecutive days must appoint an agent in New Zealand. The landlord must notify the tenant of the agent’s details and, if a bond is held, the Bond Centre.
Some of the other more significant changes in the new legislation are explained below.
The definition of letting agent has been expanded beyond real estate agents to include property managers and any other person who is in the business of arranging the rental of residential property. A letting agent can charge a fee.
Address for service: landlords and tenants must supply a physical address in New Zealand as an address for service. They may supply an additional address in the form of a post office box number, e-mail or fax.
Tenancy agreements on unit title properties are now subject to the body corporate rules.
Refund of bonds: new provisions apply to obtain a refund from the Bond Centre, for example, applications for the payment of a bond without the agreement of the other party.
Landlord’s right of entry: expansion of the grounds for a request by the landlord for entry. For example, entry with the prior consent of the tenant, for showing the premises to prospective tenants, purchasers, a registered valuer, real estate agent or building inspector. The penalty for a breach by the landlord increases from $500 to $2,000.
Death of sole tenant: whether there is a fixed or periodic tenancy it can be terminated by 21 days written notice given either by the landlord, or by the next of kin or the personal representative of the deceased tenant.
Unlawful acts by a tenant:
»» A tenant’s failure to quit the premises at the end of the tenancy without reasonable excuse
»» Interference with the means for fire escape
»» Use of the premises for an unlawful purpose
»» Harassment of other tenants or neighbours
»» Exceeding the maximum number of residents as stated in the tenancy agreement, and/or
»» Assigning or subletting a tenancy without the landlord’s consent.
Unlawful acts by the landlord:
»» Failure to comply with obligations regarding cleanliness, maintenance and repair, relevant building, health and safety regulations
»» Interference with supply of services such as gas, electricity, water and telephone, and
»» Unlawful acts can be grounds for applying to the Tenancy Tribunal for exemplary damages, the amounts of which are set out in a schedule to the Act.
Abandonment of goods: new extensive provisions apply which set out the procedure for dealing with goods left by a tenant.
Boarding houses are now covered by the RTA with provisions specific to these. A boarding house is defined as residential premises occupied by six or more tenants who each have exclusive rights to particular sleeping quarters in the boarding house.
The Tenancy Tribunal’s jurisdiction is increased to $50,000. There are also various increases in other financial penalties, as well as changes in notice periods. There are also changes to termination provisions, which should be read in detail.
It would be wise for any landlord to obtain a reprinted copy of the RTA, which will include the amending legislation, in order to become familiar with the new provisions. Luckily the RTA is one of the easier statutes to understand. Help is also available from various sources including the Department of Building and Housing, Tenancy (www.dbh.govt.nz), community law centres and bodies representing landlords.
The right to have a lawyer represent you at Tenancy Tribunal hearings is limited. We can, however, help you with your understanding of the facts and the matters that can be argued before the Tribunal, as well as assisting in writing your submission.
This article has been published courtesy of NZ Limited - an association of independent Law Firm throughout New Zealand. To read other property related articles in their publication Property Speaking click here.