From 1 July, new laws in the Residential Tenancies Act came into force. The changes aim to reduce fire-related injuries and deaths and make homes warmer, drier and safer for the million New Zealanders who live in rental accommodation.
Some of the changes are:
From 1 July landlords need to have working smoke alarms installed in all their residential rental homes. Any replacement alarms installed after that date will need to have long life batteries and a photoelectric sensor. Hardwired smoke alarms are also permitted.
Tenants will be responsible for replacing worn-out batteries in the smoke alarms and informing their landlords of any defects.
All residential rental homes in New Zealand are required to have insulation to keep a home warm in winter and cool in summer. Social housing (where tenants pay an income related rent) must be insulated by 1 July 2016 and all other rental homes by July 2019.
Landlords are required to provide a statement on the tenancy agreement about the location, type and condition of insulation in the rental home.
Tenancy Abandonment Process
The new law introduces an expedited process for a landlord to regain possession of their rental property if the property has been abandoned.
The expedited process for regaining possession enables a Tenancy Adjudicator to decide the case based on evidence landlords have provided in their expedited abandonment application. Landlords will not need to be present when the Adjudicator considers the evidence under this new process.
Enhanced Enforcement Function
The Chief Executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has greater enforcement powers, including investigating and taking proceedings to the Tribunal on behalf of the tenant, even without the tenant’s consent.
The new law makes it an unlawful act for a landlord to end a tenancy in retaliation for a tenant exercising a right under the tenancy agreement, the relevant law, or by making a complaint relating to the tenancy. This is called a ‘retaliatory notice’ under the Residential Tenancies Act. Tenants who take direct action against landlords are now be able to challenge an alleged retaliatory notice up to 28 working days after it has been issued.
The Tenancy Services website (www.tenancy.govt.nz) has further information including a summary of landlords’ and tenants’ rights and responsibilities and checklists to help landlords know what they need to do if they’re letting a property, and what tenants need to look for when they’re renting a new home.