RTA amendments over first hurdle
Wednesday 5 July 2017
Law changes on the tenant damage liability and meth contamination front are moving closer with the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (No 2) passing its first reading in Parliament.
The Bill is intended to ensure that tenancy laws better manage meth contamination, liability for careless damage and the tenancy of unsuitable properties.
Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said the Bill recognises that meth contamination of properties has become a significant issue that needs clearer direction.
“We want homes to be safe but we also don’t want properties being vacated when the risks are low.”
If the Bill passes into law, landlords will have easier access to properties to test for meth while tenants will be able to terminate their tenancy if meth presents at unsafe levels.
It enables the contamination thresholds and competency requirements in the new meth testing and remediation standard, which was released last week, to be legally recognised and enforceable before the Tenancy Tribunal.
The Bill also addresses tenant liability for careless damage – which has become an issue in the wake of the controversial Court of Appeal Osaki decision last year.
It provides that tenants will be liable for the cost of their landlord’s insurance excess up to a maximum of four weeks’ rent for each incident of damage caused by carelessness.
A tenant will be fully liable where the damage is deliberate or a criminal act, while the landlord will be liable for fair wear and tear and damage beyond the control of the tenant, like a natural disaster.
Smith said it will ensure landlords are not left out of pocket for tenant damage to rental properties and that tenants have an incentive to take good care of rental properties, while encouraging cost effective insurance arrangements.
Additionally, the Bill strengthens the law for prosecuting landlords who tenant unsuitable properties to include those who rent out unlawfully converted garages, warehouses or industrial buildings as living spaces.
The RTA Bill (No 2), which builds on the tenancy law changes made last year, is now being considered by the Local Government and Environment Select Committee.
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