Significant changes have been made to the laws which apply to rental accommodation. The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 made various changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act). These changes were implemented in three phases.
Phase 1 took effect from 12 August 2020. This phase:
- Limited the frequency of rent increase to once every 12 months, as opposed to the previous period of once every 180 days (6 months).
- Exempted transitional and emergency housing from the Act where the housing is funded by a government department or provided under the Special Needs Grants Programme.
Phase 2 took effect from 11 February 2021. This phase contained the bulk of the amendments. Important changes include:
- All fixed-term tenancies will convert to periodic tenancies at the end of the fixed term unless the parties agree otherwise, the tenant gives 28 days’ notice, or the landlord gives notice according to the grounds of termination set out in the Act.
- Landlords will now need to provide a reason for ending a periodic tenancy with 90 days’ notice. New termination grounds will be available to landlords, and the required notice periods will change.
- Landlords must give 63 days’ notice instead of the previous 42 days if they wish to move themselves, their family, or employees into the property, and the reason must be genuine and proved to be so if challenged.
- Landlords must give 90 days’ notice of termination of the tenancy if the landlord wishes to sell the property, renovate, or demolish the residence.
- Tenants must now give 28 days’ notice to end a periodic tenancy, instead of the previous 21 days’ notice.
- Before evicting a tenant for anti-social behaviour, landlords need to have issued 3 valid notices to a tenant for anti-social behaviour in connection with the tenancy within a 90-day period. The landlord must apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to terminate the tenancy within 28 days after the third notice is given.
- Before applying to the Tenancy Tribunal to end a periodic tenancy for rent arrears, landlords need to have issued 3 valid notices to a tenant for being at least 5 working days late with rent on separate occasions in connection with the tenancy within a 90-day period. The landlord must apply to the Tenancy Tribunal within 28 days after the third notice is given.
- Rental properties must be advertised with a price and rental bidding is prohibited.
- Tenants can make minor changes to the property after making the request to the landlord in writing. Landlords must respond to a tenant’s request to make changes within 21 days and must not decline the request if the change is minor, for example changing curtains or baby-proofing. Tenants must remove the fitting that was installed at the end of the tenancy and return the property to substantially the same condition it was before the minor change was made, unless the landlord agrees it can stay.
- Tenants can request to install fibre broadband and landlords must agree if it can be installed at no cost to the landlord. Specific exemptions apply, for example if the installation would compromise the weathertightness or structural integrity of a building.
- Tenants can assign tenancies and landlords cannot decline unreasonably. Tenants must make a written request and the request should include the contact details of the proposed assignee. It is not possible to contract out of this rule.
- Landlords must provide a signed tenancy agreement in writing to a tenant. Landlords must also keep and provide records about the property, including healthy homes standards information.
- The Tenancy Tribunal now has jurisdiction for claims up to $100,000, an increase from the previous limit of $50,000.
- Tenants and landlords can apply for suppression orders on Tenancy Tribunal decisions. If the application is granted, the name and any identifying details of the party are not published.
Phase 3 law changes took effect on 11 August 2021 with the regulations effective from 29 December 2022. The changes in this phase relate to family violence or assault. The amendments include:
- Tenants experiencing family violence can terminate a tenancy without financial penalty or the need for agreement from the landlord by giving two days’ written notice and evidence of the family violence.
- Landlords will be able to issue a 14 days’ notice to terminate a tenancy if the tenant has assaulted the landlord, the owner, a member of the landlord od owner’s family, or the landlord’s agent, and the Police have laid a charge against the tenant.
The changes may well create some uncertainties for landlords. It is crucial for landlords to understand the new law to avoid breaching their legal obligations and for tenants to know their new rights. If you would like further advice or information regarding these changes, please do not hesitate to contact one of our team at Harmans for advice.
Article updated May 2023 by Grace Olliver.
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