Human rights body slams tenant damage changes

Thursday 24 August 2017

Proposed amendments to tenancy law which would help landlords better address damage liability and meth contamination have come under fire from the Human Rights Commission.

By Miriam Bell

In a submission on the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (No.2), the Commission has expressed concerns about the human rights implications of the Bill – for tenants.

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith introduced the Bill into Parliament in May, it passed its first reading in July and it is now at the Select Committee stage.

The Bill was prompted by growing outrage over some controversial Tenancy Tribunal rulings on tenant liability for accidental damage, following the Court of Appeal Osaki ruling, along with meth contamination concerns.

Smith, who acknowledged that the post-Osaki damage liability fallout was not fair to landlords, said the Bill was intended to ensure that tenancy laws better manage liability for careless damage, meth damage and the tenancy of unsuitable properties.

However, the Commission believes the Bill, as it stands, could put a higher duty of care burden on tenants, as compared to landlords.

Chief Commissioner David Rutherford said it also has the potential to drive up rental costs and subject some tenants, who are not at fault, to tenancy termination without their consent or compensation.

“The balance between meeting the human rights needs of renters, while also protecting the rights of landlords and their properties, needs to be found. This Bill has not yet found that balance.”

Rutherford said the Committee has to consider the impact of tenant liability for careless damage on affordability in the private rental market.

Further, the Commission wants the Bill to be amended to include the changes to the RTA proposed in Labour’s Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill and to enact a more reciprocal private rental framework, including reviewing the grounds of, and notice period for, termination.

These suggestions are unlikely to go down well with landlord advocates.

While the NZPIF has said it is pleased the Bill is taking some action to ensure tenants are held responsible for accidental damage to rental properties, it also does not believe the Bill goes far enough on that front.

Additionally, the NZPIF is supportive of the Bill’s drive to provide landlords with easier access to their rental properties to test for meth and has some concerns about the Healthy Homes Bill.

Read more:

RTA amendments over first hurdle 

Tenant damage law change 

Dark clouds on landlords’ horizons 

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