Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2020 Amendment

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Parliament passed the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (the Bill) on 5 August 2020. The Bill includes some new changes that hadn’t been previously announced. The changes aim to provide greater support for victims of family violence, and for landlords who experience physical assault from tenants.

Concerns were raised during the select committee stage about the lack of protection for tenants who are victims of family violence. Other people were concerned about the potential for situations to escalate and tenants to act violently towards landlords.

How do the changes protect victims of family violence?

The changes enable a victim of family violence to leave a tenancy quickly by providing the landlord with a family violence termination notice so they can seek safety. The definition of family violence is the same as that in the Family Violence Act 2018, and includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse.

The period of notice for a victim leaving a tenancy is two days or more, and after the termination date the tenant would not be liable for any further rent.

The tenant will need to provide their landlord with a document which shows they are in circumstances of family violence. What can be included as evidence of family violence will be set in regulations.

How do the changes protect landlords from violent tenants?

A landlord can terminate a tenancy with 14 days’ notice if the Police have laid a charge against a tenant for physically assaulting the landlord/owner, a family member of the landlord/owner, or an agent of the landlord.

The landlord must accompany the termination notice with evidence the Police have charged the tenant with an offence involving a physical assault on one of these people.  What can be used as evidence of a Police charge will be set in regulations.

What else has changed?

Most of the provisions in the Bill come into force six months after Royal assent. However, the new rule limiting rent increases to once every 12 months will need to be complied with from the day after Royal assent. Rent increases can take effect from 26 September 2020. This is the end of the rent increase freeze, brought in as part of the COVID-19 response.

The COVID-19 legislation also provided the Tenancy Tribunal with more flexibility in how it can conduct itself, including having hearings by teleconference or videoconference, or deciding applications on the papers. These flexible operations were due to end on 25 September 2020. They have been extended for a further six months to 25 March 2021.

Next steps

The Bill will receive Royal assent shortly. Most of the provisions in the Bill will come into effect six months after Royal assent.

For more information

For more information on the Residential Tenancies Act reform in general, visit the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development’s website: www.hud.govt.nz/RTA-Reforms.

Published: August 6, 2020

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