The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill was introduced to Parliament on 3 December 2015, and with it came a number of proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986.
Two of the main aims of the Bill are to:
improve the safety of residential rental properties by requiring smoke alarms and insulation in all residential rental properties; and
make the process around abandoned rental properties more efficient.
The proposed Bill would require a landlord to ensure that their residential rental property has working smoke alarms, while making the tenant responsible for changing the alarm batteries and notifying the landlord of any faulty alarms.
The proposed Bill would, further, require under-floor and ceiling insulation. The requirement in respect of insulation splits residential rental properties into two categories: income-related rent tenancies, and all other tenancies. An “income-related rent tenancy” applies to Housing New Zealand and Community Housing Provider tenancies where tenants pay an income-related rent. For these income-related rent tenancies, insulation is required from 1 July 2016, while all other rental properties will require insulation from 1 July 2019.
Under the proposed amendments, a landlord is also required to provide information about the insulation of the premises in the tenancy agreement for the property. This will include whether there is insulation and, if so, the details of that insulation. The Bill provides that a landlord will commit an offence if this information is omitted from the tenancy agreement, or if the landlord knows the information is false or misleading.
Overall, the aim of these two requirements is to ensure the health and safety of the occupiers of a residential rental property without imposing excessive costs on a landlord.
A rental property will come within the definition of “abandoned rental property” where the tenant is in arrears with the rent, and has left the property with no obvious intention of returning to it.
Under the current Residential Tenancies Act 1986 process, obtaining a declaration that a property is an “abandoned rental property” can take up to six weeks. The Bill proposes a process which would take ten working days after an application is filed with the Tenancy Tribunal. Reducing the time to confirm abandonment of a tenancy will enable a landlord to re-let their property, which obviously reduces the loss of rental income.
The Bill also proposes giving a landlord the right to enter the rental premises where the rent is at least 14 days in arrears, and where the landlord has reasonable cause to believe that the tenant has abandoned the property. Furthermore, the Bill proposes that a landlord may enter the premises to confirm abandonment if notice has been given to the tenant no less than 24 hours prior to entry.
The Social Services Committee report on the Bill, which will take into account public submissions about the proposed changes, is due on 8 June 2016.