The Associate Housing Minister says the new tenancy rules that came into effect on Thursday are rental laws that are fit for the times and will improve tenants' security.
There are three phases to the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act, the second of which came into force on Thursday. The new rules include allowing tenants to make minor changes to their property, such as hanging up pictures or replacing curtains, requiring rentals to show a rental price so tenants can't bid on them, and making name suppression available to those who are successful at the Tenancy Tribunal.
Associate Minister of Housing Poto Williams says the new rules "reflect the realities of the modern-day renting environment".
"Tenants are now able to make their house a home. From today it's critical that landlords and tenants understand how the changes affect them," she says.
"This Government believes the updated rental laws now provide adequate protections for both tenants and landlords. The reforms have come at a time when Kiwis are renting now more than ever, including whānau and older people."
Williams says a key focus of the reform has been to improve the security of tenure and allow tenants to put down roots in their communities.
"We know that insecure tenure has significant impacts on families and older people, and is linked to negative health, education and employment outcomes," Williams says.
Under the second phase of the changes, landlords can no longer use "no cause" terminations for periodic tenancies. Instead, landlords must give justified grounds to end a periodic tenancy and tell the tenant the reason.
Additionally, fixed-term tenancies will automatically convert to periodic tenancies upon expiry, unless the landlords and tenants agree otherwise, the tenant gives notice, or the landlord gives notice using one of the justified grounds at the end of the fixed-term.
"This will reduce the stress many tenants feel each year where they face the prospect of having to find a new home at the end of their fixed-term tenancy," Williams says.
She also says the Government has been concerned some tenants may be unwilling to enforce their rights in the Tribunal for fear of being blacklisted from future tenancies.
"The reform will better enable both landlords and tenants to enforce their rights without fear of reprisal by providing for name suppression of parties who are wholly or partially successful in the Tribunal upon application," she says.
"The Government has been mindful of the need to modernise the law in a way which is proportionate. These changes get the balance right, ensuring landlords continue to have the tools they need to manage their business. Both landlords and tenants can benefit from increased security and certainty."
Additional changes that came into effect on Thursday include:
- landlords must provide their tenants with a tenancy agreement in writing
- tenants can request to assign a tenancy and this cannot be unreasonably declined. 'Assignment' is where a tenant finds someone to replace them in the tenancy
- tenants can make minor changes to their premises where the installation and removal of the changes is low risk
- soliciting rental bids is prohibited. Landlords and agents also may not advertise rental properties with no rental price listed
- landlords must facilitate fibre broadband installation upon request, unless an exemption applies, where the connection can be installed at no cost to the landlord
- the Tenancy Tribunal's jurisdiction and administrative powers have been broadened, and can now hear cases and make awards up to $100,000, where previously this was capped at $50,000.