Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act came into force on 1 July 2016.
Here is a summary of some of the key changes – follow the links for important details.
Smoke alarms are now compulsory in all rental homes. Landlords must ensure there is at least one working smoke alarm in each bedroom or within three metres of each bedroom door, at least one on each storey or level, and at least one in any caravan, sleep-out or similar.
All new or replacement smoke alarms, installed from 1 July 2016 onward, must be long-life photoelectric smoke alarms with a battery life of at least eight years or a hard-wired smoke alarm system, and meet the required product standards.
Tenants must replace expired batteries in smoke alarms during the tenancy.
Insulation statements are now compulsory on any tenancy agreement made since 1 July 2016. Landlords must make a statement about the location, type and condition of the current insulation, if any.
Insulation will be compulsory in all rental homes from 1 July 2019. There must be underfloor and ceiling insulation meeting the required standard, where it can be practically installed.
Insulation is now compulsory in all social housing, where tenants pay an income-related rent. There must be underfloor and ceiling insulation meeting the required standard, where it can be practically installed.
Any new, replacement or top-up insulation in a rental home must meet the required standard.
The installation of electrically-conductive insulation products, such as reflective foil products, is now banned.
Landlords must keep rent and bond records for seven years after the tax year to which they relate.
Landlords must keep copies of all documentation relating to the rental home during the tenancy and for 12 months after the tenancy ends. Tenants are advised to do the same.
Specified documents must be provided if requested by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
New enforcement powers
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has new powers to monitor and enforce compliance with the Residential Tenancies Act, including prosecuting landlords whose properties breach basic housing standards.
MBIE will act in the public interest by targeting those landlords whose actions:
- pose a significant risk to the health or safety of any person
- amount to a serious or persistent breach of the law
- risk undermining public confidence in the administration of the law
MBIE also has the power to act on any other grounds the Chief Executive considers appropriate.
Expedited abandonment process
There is now an expedited process for a landlord to regain possession of their rental home when it has been abandoned.
The expedited process allows the Tenancy Tribunal to decide the case based on evidence the landlord provides in an expedited abandonment application. The landlord and tenant are not present when the adjudicator considers the evidence.
It is now an unlawful act for a landlord to end a tenancy in retaliation for a tenant exercising a right under the tenancy agreement or the relevant law, or by making a complaint relating to the tenancy. This is called a ‘retaliatory notice’.
A tenant who takes direct action against a landlord will now be able to challenge an alleged retaliatory notice up to 28 working days after it has been issued.
A landlord can no longer ‘pay out’ a tenant instead of complying with a Tenancy Tribunal work order if it relates to health and safety – this includes smoke alarms and insulation requirements.
If a landlord has a Tenancy Tribunal work order requiring a tenant to undertake work by certain date, and the tenant fails to do so, the landlord can get the work done to the value of the order and treat those costs as rent arrears. This option is at the discretion of the Tenancy Tribunal, and the landlord must ask the Tribunal to include it in the order.
If a tenant has a Tenancy Tribunal work order requiring a landlord to undertake work, and the landlord fails to do so, the tenant has options including:
- paying MBIE the rent until there is enough to do the work
- doing the work and offsetting the cost against rent payable.
This option is at the discretion of the Tenancy Tribunal, and the tenant must ask the Tribunal to include it in the order.