The major change in the draft bill will allow restrictions against tenancy terminations to be switched on and off by ministerial order in response to alert level four.
These restrictions will not apply during alert level three or lower alert levels.
Under the restrictions, landlords will not be able to terminate tenancies, except in limited circumstances. Most terminations will be postponed until after the restrictions lift.
Landlords will still be able to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to terminate tenancies on limited grounds, such as tenants engaging in significant anti-social behaviour or substantial property damage.
The draft legislation is similar to the restrictions on tenancy terminations passed in 2020, but with some key differences.
• Tenancy termination restrictions will not apply for a fixed period of time. Instead, the restrictions will be able to be switched on and off by ministerial order.
• Existing termination notices will not be cancelled. For most tenancies, the notice period will continue to run while the restrictions are in place, but after the restrictions lift, tenants will get a top up to a minimum of 28 days’ notice.
• This legislation will not include a rent freeze like last time. The Government has made multiple changes to improve the security and rights of renters, including limiting rent increases to once a year (which came into effect on August 12, 2020).
This was not in place during the most recent lockdown.
These changes will resolve many of the inconsistencies between the alert level four Public Health Response Orders and the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, says Tenancy Services.
The restrictions will support tenants to comply with the Public Health Response Orders by staying in their tenancies and staying at home during alert level four.
Tenancy Services says the aim of the new legislation is to provide much needed certainty and clarity for landlords and tenants.
It’s also about being more prepared and avoiding the confusion seen in the rental sector with previous lockdowns.
The Bill will be referred to the Finance and Expenditure Committee, where the public can provide feedback on the proposals.