6 Aug 2020

Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill: How it will affect tenants and landlords

9:27 am on 6 August 2020

Tenants now have another layer of security with the passing of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill.

The bill passed its final reading in Parliament last night.

House  with "For Rent" sign in front

Photo: 123rf

It does away with 90 day no-cause terminations, removes rental bidding, and only allows landlords to increase rents every 12 months.

Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi said with more New Zealanders than ever renting, the old law was out-dated and out of balance.

But National has dubbed the bill the "I Hate the Landlords" bill and is warning that it will have the unintended consequence of driving up rents.

Faafoi said times had changed since the late 80s, and renters deserved the security of having a place to call home, and to put down roots.

"This bill align New Zealand's rental laws with the present-day realities of renting in New Zealand. It ensures that there are appropriate protections in place for both tenants and for landlords", Faafoi said.

The bill bans landlords from seeking rental bids, and limits rent increases to once every 12 months.

It also allows tenants to make small changes to properties - such as baby proofing or hanging pictures and it stops landlords kicking tenants out with 90 days notice, with no reason.

"It's simply not appropriate in 2020 for a person to be required to leave their home without knowing why. Landlords will be able to terminate tenancies for a range of fair and justified reasons, such as anti-social behaviour, or someone who is repeatedly behind on their rent," Faafoi said.

Other key changes brought in at the last minute include allowing landlords to terminate tenancies with 14 days' notice if a tenant assaults them, and allowing victims of family violence to end a tenancy with two days' notice.

National voted against the bill, and MP Alfred Ngaro did not hold back on his criticisms.

"This bill should be 'I Hate the Landlords Bill' ... New Zealanders want housing solutions, but what are we getting? We're getting the situation where we're pitching the landlord vs the tenant", he said.

Ngaro said the last-minute changes further highlighted the anti-landlord sentiment.

"Now for a tenant where there was family violence they have two days in which they can be removed. But for a tenant who actually assaults a landlord they are given a 14-day period of grace. Where is the equity of opportunity for the landlord? There isn't one," Ngaro said.

Labour MP Kiri Allan said the bill was about correcting what could be a debilitating power imbalance.

"We know the trauma of what it is like to lose your home. We know that those kids that are growing up in those homes without that certainty of having a roof over your head that they're going to go from school to school to school. We know that they'll come from some of the most vulnerable backgrounds and some of the hardest backgrounds," she said.

But National MP Andrew Bayly said the government was punishing all landlords in order to catch out just a few bad ones.

He said the bill cut across the rights of landlords.

"Many of these landlords, these mums and dads I speak about, they will stop renting their property. And we've seen that already, we've seen all their anecdotes, we've seen all their emails. That in time will push up the rental prices - the very thing that we do not want to achieve," he said.

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson hit back at this, accusing National of weaponising anecdotes about bad tenants to smear all of those struggling with the stress of keeping a roof over their head.

"If people using housing as a business are not able to run a business in a way that is fit for human decency then that is up to them to choose some other way of running a business," she said.

The bulk of the reforms will come into effect in six months, however, the 12 monthly limit on rent increases will come into effect this week, to help tenants who are struggling financially as a result of Covid-19.

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