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PoliticsAugust 5, 2020

Attention landlords and tenants: here’s how the new renting regulations affect you

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Parliament has just passed a new law that will leave renters with a sense of relief. But many landlords aren’t too pleased. 

What’s all this then?

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill passed under urgency this evening. It amends existing law around renting to increase rights for tenants. According to associate housing minister Kris Faafoi, who’s in charge of the bill, it increases the security of tenure for tenants and promotes good-faith relationships in the renting environment. Faafoi says it also protects a landlord’s interest in their property and ensures tenants receive fair rights for the rent that they are paying. 

That’s all well and good – but what does it mean for me?

If you’re a renter, it means you’ll have a bit more control over what goes on in the home you’re paying to live in. Firstly, it will remove no-cause terminations to end a periodic tenancy agreement. During the bill’s first reading, Faafoi said tenants deserve to know why they are being evicted.

The bill mandates that fixed-term tenancy agreements must become periodic tenancy agreements upon expiry, unless both parties agree otherwise, or justified reasons apply. Faafoi says this will flatten the demand that has been created in some regions by tenancies all ending at the same time.

There’s also more protections for victims of family violence, who can now end a tenancy with just two days’ notice. Landlords can terminate tenancies with 14 days’ notice if a tenant assaults them.

Will it mean I can make my rental more “homely”?

The bill makes rental properties safer and more liveable by preventing landlords from stopping minor changes being made to their property. For example, landlords won’t be able to stop tenants doing things like putting brackets up to secure furniture and appliances against earthquake risk, baby-proofing the property, or installing visual fire alarms and doorbells for hearing-impaired tenants. 

But, landlords can still set reasonable conditions when agreeing to these minor changes.

So my landlord can’t stop me from putting things on the walls?! 

Exactly! If, like me, you have an assortment of pictures, mirrors, and hanging pot plants piled up against the wall, you’ll now be able to hang them all up – just so long as you can return the property to substantially the same condition as you found it before the tenancy started when you move out

My flat doesn’t have fibre installed – will it now be easier to get that done?

For sure! Where a tenancy or property does not already have ultra-fast broadband, and a tenant requests it, landlords will be required to permit and facilitate the installation of ultra-fast broadband. Of course, if installing fibre is going to do something like compromise the structural integrity of the property, landlords can still refuse it. The costs of installation remain the tenants’ responsibility, not the landlord’s. 

That all sounds grand, but I’m a landlord. Am I being screwed over?

The government says the law will still recognise landlords’ rights. For instance, landlords will still be able to terminate tenancies for a range of fair and justified reasons, such as antisocial behaviour. They could also kick someone out if they’re at least three weeks behind in rent. 

If the landlord wants to change the use of the premises or to redevelop it, that will also be a reason to end a tenancy. For example, if the landlord wants to sell your property, or move into it, they will still be able to terminate the tenancy.

What’s the feedback been like?

Despite the government claiming it will balance tenants’ and landlords’ interests, there has been quite a bit of criticism levelled at the bill from property owners. The real estate institute, for example, reckons it will now be harder for tenants to find new rental properties unless they have an “excellent” rental history. 

The Property Investors Federation executive officer Sharon Cullwick told Newstalk ZB that 20% of landlords could leave the industry as a result of this law going through. 

And property commentator Ashley Church told Newshub this government is the most “anti-landlord” in our country’s history.

So, it’s probably fair to say that property owners (or, those who represent property owners) don’t seem very happy with the law.

Read more:

Why even after the law changes, NZ still sucks for renters

An important message from a landlord about the new rental laws

I’m a landlord – but the negligence and greed of other landlords makes me ashamed to admit it

I was a landlord, and I hated the person it made me become

Keep going!