“These are the most significant changes in tenancy law in 30 years and will affect more than 450,000 rental homes. I want tenants and landlords to know their new rights and responsibilities,” Dr Smith says.
“The new requirement for all rental properties to have working smoke alarms by tomorrow is a no-brainer. We estimated when we announced the policy a year ago that 27 per cent, or 120,000 homes, did not have a working smoke alarm. Landlords have the responsibility to install working alarms appropriately located to protect residents, and tenants have the responsibility to replace the batteries when required. All new smoke alarms are required to be the long-life models. Non-compliance comes with a potential fine of $4000.
“The new insulation requirements mean there must be underfloor and ceiling insulation in all 60,000 social housing rentals from tomorrow, and all new tenancy agreements must declare the level of insulation. All rental properties, subject to a few exemptions, must be insulated by 1 July 2019.
“A significant change with the new law is the power of the government to prosecute landlords whose property breaches basic housing standards covering issues such as dampness, sanitation, electrical safety, security, drainage and maintenance.
“Currently the system relies on tenants to take cases to the Tenancy Tribunal. The intention is for most cases to continue to be taken up by affected tenants, and the new law further supports doing this by strengthening the protection from retaliatory evictions by landlords. A new Tenancy Compliance Investigations Team, established by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), will focus on tenancies involving vulnerable tenants and landlords with multiple sub-standard properties.
“The new law will also enable homes that have been abandoned by the previous tenant to be re-tenanted more quickly, with a 10-day process. The current process can take up to six weeks, leaving a house empty and the landlord out of pocket.”
MBIE has been running an information campaign for landlords and tenants to help ensure the changes are successfully implemented, and more information on the changes to the Residential Tenancies Act is available on its website, www.tenancy.govt.nz
“These are significant changes to our tenancy laws that will ensure warmer, drier and safer homes for the one million New Zealanders who live in rental properties. These new requirements on smoke alarms and insulation will save 1000 lives in the next decade, and complement other Government initiatives to improve the supply and quality of New Zealand homes,” Dr Smith says.