Tenancy law changes - what you need to know.
By Kirsten Magnusson

18/02/2021

Tenancy law changes - what you need to know.



Last year saw our Government introduce the biggest overhaul of tenancy laws in thirty-five years. Those laws are now in place. Here’s what you need to know.

By Kirsten Magnusson

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 is now in place and affects both landlords and tenants. We’ve provided an overview here, for further reference visit the Tenancy services website, https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/law-changes/

The law changes have been broken into three phases:
Phase 1: already in force, 12 August 2020
Phase 2: already in force, 11 February 2021
Phase 3: by 11 August 2021
 
Phase 1: Law changes that took effect 12 August 2020

Transitional and emergency housing is exempt from the Act

Transitional and emergency housing is exempt from the Act where the housing is:
  • funded (wholly or partly) by a government department, or
  • provided under the Special Needs Grant’s Programme.
Limitation on rent increases
Rent increases are limited to once every 12 months. This is a change from once every 180 days (six months).
 
Phase 2: Law changes that took effect 11 February 2021

Security of rental tenure
Landlords will not be able to end a periodic tenancy without cause by providing 90 days’ notice. New termination grounds are available to landlords under a periodic tenancy and the required notice periods will change.
 
Changes for fixed-term tenancies
All fixed-term tenancy agreements will convert to periodic tenancies at the end of the fixed term unless the parties agree otherwise, the tenant gives a 28-day notice, or the landlord gives notice in accordance with the termination grounds for periodic tenancies.
 
Making minor changes
Tenants can ask to make changes to the property and landlords must not decline if the change is minor. Landlords must respond to a tenant’s request to make a change within 21 days.
 
Prohibitions on rental bidding
Rental properties cannot be advertised without a rental price listed, and landlords cannot invite or encourage tenants to bid on the rental (pay more than the advertised rent amount).
 
Fibre broadband
Tenants can request to install fibre broadband, and landlords must agree if it can be installed at no cost to them, unless specific exemptions apply.
 
Privacy and access to justice
A suppression order can remove names and identifying details from published Tenancy Tribunal decisions if a party who has applied for a suppression order is wholly or substantially successful, or if this is in the interests of the parties and the public interest.
 
Assignment of tenancies
All requests to assign a tenancy must be considered. Landlords cannot decline unreasonably. If a residential tenancy agreement prohibits assignment, it is of no effect.
 
Landlord records
Not providing a tenancy agreement in writing is an unlawful act and landlords will need to retain and provide new types of information.
 
Enforcement measures being strengthened
The Regulator (the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) has new measures to take action against parties who are not meeting their obligations.
 
Changes to Tenancy Tribunal jurisdiction.
The Tenancy Tribunal can hear cases and make awards up to $100,000. This is a change from $50,000.
 
Phase 3: Law changes that will take effect by 11 August 2021

Tenancies can be terminated if family violence or landlord assault has occurred.

Family violence
Tenants experiencing family violence will be able to terminate a tenancy without financial penalty.
 
Physical assault
A landlord will be able to issue a 14-day notice to terminate the tenancy if the tenant has assaulted the landlord, the owner, a member of their family, or the landlord’s agent, and the Police have laid a charge against the tenant in respect of the assault.