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Proposed RTA Change Means Tenant Anti-social Behaviour More Likely

Recent comments by a senior solicitor at Morrison Kent, Evan Whetton, has backed up NZ Property Investors’ Federation’s concerns over radical changes to the Residential Tenancies Act.

There had been a big shift in favour of tenants under the proposed legislation, which the select committee had further strengthened. Termination by 90 days' notice without having to provide reasons “has provided an important safeguard for small landlords to bring a consistently problematic tenancy to an end” comments Whetton. It would be hard for many landlords to give three notices within a 90-day period about a tenant's anti-social behaviour.

“Under a Bill soon to be passed by Government, anti-social tenants' bad behaviour will be protected at the cost of their poor suffering neighbours" says Sharon Cullwick, Executive Officer of the NZ Property Investors’ Federation (NZPIF).

Currently, if a tenant behaves in a disruptive manner affecting their neighbours, a landlord can use their best judgment and give this tenant 3 months to leave the property. The landlord does not have to say why they are ending the tenancy, so affected neighbours do not have to put themselves at risk by providing evidence. It is always a last resort for a landlord to ask a tenant to leave on a 90-day notice as the mortgage still has to be paid and the landlord then fronts this cost.

Following the Select Committee process, and with the Second Reading scheduled for this week, the RTA changes mean that landlords have to provide a reason why they are ending a tenancy. This reason would be based on evidence provided by the neighbours thereby putting the anti-social tenants' neighbours at risk. The Bill allows tenants to undertake mild anti-social behaviour as of right. Landlords can only give anti-social tenants three months' notice to end a tenancy if the tenant commits three serious anti-social acts over a three-month period.

Senior solicitor Evan Whetton says "This is a significant obligation which may be difficult for landlords due to strict timeframes, a lack of resources, or fear of potential repercussions either on themselves, their property or on neighbours."

While this issue has not yet reached public awareness, it is a situation that could affect anyone living next door to an anti-social tenant, either now or in the future.

A NZPIF survey shows that approximately 12,000 tenancies are currently ended each year because of anti-social behaviour by the tenant. This means about 60,000 households are affected. This number is likely to increase if the ability of landlords to deal with anti-social behaviour of their tenant is significantly reduced.

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