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Residential Tenancies Changes Introduced

May 3 2002

Law changes giving greater protection to boarding house tenancies and taking a tougher approach to landlords of substandard houses were introduced into Parliament by Housing Minister Mark Gosche today.

The main provisions of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill include:
Extending the coverage of the Residential Tenancies Act to cover boarding house tenancies
Toughened the Act to allow for exemplary damages of up to $3000 for landlords who do not upgrade substandard houses.

"Those living in boarding houses are often among the most vulnerable in our communities. They are often without family or support and unable to afford or cope with other forms of accommodation.

“Similarly, those living in substandard houses can be very vulnerable. Statistics indicate that rental properties house mainly young people such as students, sole parents, Mäori and Pacific peoples and those on low incomes. These are often the people who have the greatest difficulty accessing adequate housing. If rental accommodation is substandard, it is most likely affecting the very people who are already at risk.”

The changes for boarding house tenants mean:
Some of the Residential Tenancies Act's protection for general tenants will be extended to cover those using a boarding house as their home.
New provisions will be provided to regulate how a boarding house tenancy can be ended, including notice periods required, rules for what happens to abandoned possessions and the payment of bonds.

The Bill stipulates the rights and obligations of boarding house landlords and tenants, and enables them to take their disputes before the Tenancy Tribunal.

“Boarding house landlords will have to give shorter notice periods to terminate tenancies. There will also be no obligation on boarding house landlords to lodge bonds but a tenant in a boarding house who feels that a landlord has unjustifiably retained the bond can make an application to the TenancyTribunal.

“The boarding house owner will not need to go to the Tribunal to terminate a tenancy. However, if the tenant feels at any time that the landlord is acting unjustifiably or outside of the law they can take the matter to the Tenancy Tribunal.”
The legislation has also taken into consideration the boarding house tenants’ need to have flexibility, and therefore provides for the tenant to be able to give 48 hours notice, which is significantly less than for general tenancies, Mr Gosche said.

“One of the main advantages of this legislation will be that both boarding house landlords and tenants will be able to use Tenancy Services’ mediation and Tenancy Tribunal services to resolve their disputes.”

The Bill also includes provisions that will enable the Tenancy Tribunal to award a penalty against landlords who intentionally provide substandard housing.

“The changes to penalities for landlords of substandard houses mean that the government is sending a very clear message to all landlords that substandard housing will not be tolerated.”

Under the existing provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act a tenant can go to the Tribunal and ask for a work order to get a landlord to do repairs or maintenance. However there is no penalty for landlords who intentionally or continuously provide substandard housing, or who don’t comply with a Tenancy Tribunal ruling to carry out work on the property.

The Bill also
Clarifies some sections of the Act, including confirming that landlords are liable for waste water charges and fixed charges on water;
Ensures that tenants will be liable for damage caused intentionally or carelessly even though the landlord may have taken insurance;
Makes real estate agents charge the letting fee to landlords rather than tenants. Those landlords who choose to advertise through a Real Estate Agent will pay the letting fee in the same way that a vendor who sells property pays the agent a commission.

Ends

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