Residential Tenancy Act Amendment Bill Update - an analysis by Cliff Seque, President of Otago PIA and NZPIF Executive Committee member.
The Social Services Select Committee reported back to Parliament on the 29th September with its recommendations of changes to the Residential Tenancies Act Amendment Bill.
The full text of the changes can be downloaded from http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/SC/Documents/Reports/2/8/5/49DBSCH_SCR4500_1-Residential-Tenancies-Bill-34-2.htm
After much lobbing and presenting of oral and written submissions from the NZPIF and associations, the Select Committee has recommended that the main issues of having to disclose to tenants if a property had been subject to a local body cleansing order as a result of a ‘P’ lab should be removed. The committee also recommended that tenants having advocates at tenancy hearings and the four weeks limitation on damage should also be removed. Recomendations of major chnages have been made regarding landlord’s treatment of abandoned goods, and boarding houses have been brought under the act.
Section 4. All property managers (REINZ and Independents) are now called Letting Agents and they can all charge a letting fee (previously only REINZ Members and lawyers could do this.)
Section8 . Short fixed term tenancies are reduced to 90 days and cannot be used for a trial period
Section 13. Proposed addresses for service must be an address of a physical place in New Zealand. In addition landlords may specify a Post Office box number, e-mail address or a facsimile number.
Section 16A. If a landlord is going to be out of New Zealand for more than 21 consecutive days, they must appoint a New Zealand based agent and notify tenants and the bond centre if a bond is held.
The agent can be a friend or relative .
The agent has the rights and obligations of the landlord.
Section 16B. Tenancy agreements on Unit Title properties are now subject to the body corporate rules.
Section 22A. The period for a one party claim on the bond is reduced from 21 days to 10 working days.
Section22B. If the landlord seeks payment of the bond more than 2 months after the end of the tenancy, they must seek a Tenancy Tribunal Order for the bond distribution.
Section 24A. If both parties agree on a rent reduction for a specified period, the reinstatement of the previous rent does not constitute a rent increase.
Section 28. If the landlord improves the property and the tenant does not agree to a rent increase, the landlord may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to increase the rent.
Section 28A. A landlord may apply to the tribunal to have the rent increased due to unforeseen circumstances.
Section 32. The debtor can now be required to reimburse the creditor for any reasonable expenses or commission incurred by the creditor in recovering or attempting to recover the debt.
Section 39. The landlord is responsible for all outgoings that are incurred when the premises are empty and the tenant is responsible for all outgoings that are exclusively attributable to the tenant’s occupation eg, power, metered water, telephone and gas.
Section 40. It is proposed the following become unlawful acts with exemplary damages to the landlord
-tenant’s failure to quit the premises at the end of a tenancy;
-using or permitting the premises to be used for unlawful purposes;
-harassment of other tenants or neighbours;
-exceeding the maximum number of residents as stated on the lease;
-assigning or subletting a tenancy when prohibited to do so or without the landlord’s written consent;
-abandonment of the premises without reasonable excuse and while the rent is in arrears;
-interference with the means of escape from fire, including tampering with smoke alarms.
Section 42. Any fixtures left by the tenant at the end of a tenancy become the property of the landlord.
Section 48. A tenant may not unreasonably withhold consent for a landlord to show the property to a valuer or real estate agent.
Section 50A. Upon the death of a tenant, the personal representative or the next of kin shall be able to give 21 days notice whether it is a fixed term or periodic tenancy.
Section 50. 42 days notice can be given to terminate a periodic tenancy if the premises are to be occupied by the owner or owners family [owner substituted for landlord].
Section 55. The tenancy can be terminated if the tenant assaults ,threatens or allows others to assault any of the following - landlord, landlord’s family member, owner , owner's family member, agent, other occupier, or neighbour.
Section 56. The 10 working day notice period is changed to 14 consecutive days.
Section 59A. Landlord can give 7 days or tenant 2 days notice to terminate a tenancy if the premises are destroyed or become inhabitable due to damage.
Section 60. At the end of a fixed term tenancy, it is proposed that it will become a periodic tenancy under the same terms and conditions as the previous fixed term tenancy. Either party with an intention not to continue with the tenancy at the end of the fixed term must give the other party written notice of their intentions no earlier than 90 days and no later than 21 days before the end of the fixed term. The tenant must advise the landlord (in writing) at least 21 days before the end of the fixed term.
Section 62. Under the proposed changes, tenant’s goods left at the premises on termination of the tenancy (abandoned goods) can be disposed of in the following order;
-foodstuffs and other perishables can be disposed of;
-with other goods the landlord must make reasonable efforts to contact the previous tenant and come to an agreement upon a period within which the tenant can collect the goods.
-if unable to contact the tenant and agree on a period to remove their goods with the landlord or if the tenant fails to collect the goods within the agreed period, the landlord may remove them to safe storage and apply to the Tribunal for a disposal order (as at present) or he or she can get a market assessment of the goods, and if the market assessment value is less than the cost of storing, transporting and selling them then the landlord may immediately dispose of the goods. If the market assessment is greater than the cost of storage, transporting and selling them, the landlord must secure the goods for not less than 35 days and after that the goods can be sold for a reasonable market price (by auction or private treaty) with personal documents surrendered to the police. The landlord can then apply to the tribunal for an order specifying the amount owing to the landlord from the tenancy from the sale proceeds. The landlord is not liable in respect of the goods sold nor can the ex-tenant claim them back from the purchaser.
Section 65. The Tenancy Tribunal now has juristiction over squatters.
Section 66. (boarding houses). Studio rooms will come under this section.
Section 66. A tenant may apply to end the tenancy if if a change in Body Corp rules adversely affect the tenant.
Section 87. If either party refuses to have a matter considered by a Tenancy Mediator.
the dispute must be referred to the registrar for determination by the Tenancy Tribunal.
Section 70. Failure to answer witness summons incurs a fine of $2000
Section 71. Contempt of court incurs a fine of $2000.
Section 77. The Tribunal can now award against a guarantor of a tenant (previously this had to be taken to the disputes tribunal)
Section78. The maximum the Tribunal can rule on is increased from $12,000 to $50,000.
Section 91A. If serving notices more than 2 months after a tenancy has ended, the landlord must supply an address for service that the tenant supplied to them in the previous 2 months.
Section 102. If the applicant is wholly successful in his or her claim, the tribunal must order the respondent pay the filing fee paid or if partially successful the tribunal may order the respondent pay the applicant the filing fee.
Now the legislation awaits a second reading in parliament but is unlikely to undergo any significant changes before it becomes law.