2019 has been a busy year for landlords with a lot of changes to the tenancy legislation.
The Healthy Homes Standards became law on 1 July this year. The standards set the minimum level expected of a rental property regarding heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture ingress and drainage, and draught stopping in rental properties. Landlords are obliged to meet these standards.
These standards will help ensure rental homes in New Zealand are warm and dry, and will improve the health of tenants by improving the standard of housing. The standards will also decrease maintenance costs for landlords and add value to your investment property.
All private rentals must meet all of the healthy homes standards within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy after 1 July 2021, with all private rentals complying by 1 July 2024. In addition, from 1 July 2019 it became necessary for you to include a statement with any new, varied or renewed tenancy agreement that you will comply, or already do comply, with the healthy homes standards.
The second change to the law this year came into force on 27 August 2019. The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 (the Act) is intended to:
- encourage tenants to take care of rental properties while making sure they are not liable for excessive costs
- encourage cost-effective insurance arrangements
- strengthen the law for holding landlords to account if they rent unsuitable properties
- allow for regulations to be made about methamphetamine (meth) contamination.
The key change is that tenants are now liable for careless damage. They can be liable for the cost of the damage up to a maximum of four weeks’ rent or the landlord’s insurance excess, whichever is lower. It is also a requirement for all landlords to include an insurance statement with every new tenancy agreement.
The Act includes two other changes to the law. The first relates to unlawful residential premises. It specifies that landlords must comply with all legal requirements relating to buildings and health and safety that apply to rental premises. Landlords must also ensure that the premises can legally be lived in at the start of a tenancy.
The last aspect of the Act relates to contamination of premises. Landlords can now test for meth in rental properties while tenants are living there. They must provide 48 hours’ notice to tenants before entering the property. When the regulations are made, they will prescribe the acceptable level for meth contamination, processes for testing (including when to test) and decontamination of rental properties.
Finally, when renting out a property, landlords need to:
- make sure the property is in a reasonable condition
- let the tenant have quiet enjoyment of the property
- meet all relevant building, health and safety standards
- handle any abandoned goods in the correct way
- inform the tenant if the property is for sale
- have an agent if they are out of New Zealand for more than 21 days.