"This Bill makes three practical changes to the Residential Tenancies Act to help ensure our tenancy laws better manage methamphetamine contamination, liability for careless damage and the tenancy of unsuitable properties. It builds on the changes we made last year requiring smoke alarms and insulation, and establishing a Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team.
“This 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.
“Landlords will have easier access to test for meth and tenants will be able to terminate their tenancy if it presents at unsafe levels. Standards New Zealand is working on appropriate contamination thresholds and the Bill will enable these to be legally recognised and enforceable before the Tenancy Tribunal.
“The Bill also implements changes in respect of liability for careless damage arising from the Osaki decision last year. This court ruling means landlords cannot recover the costs of damage, including the excess charge on any insurance policy. The changes are needed to ensure tenants have an incentive to take good care of a property, and for the landlord to have appropriate insurance.
“Under the Bill, 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 remains fully liable where the damage is deliberate or a criminal act, and the landlord liable for fair wear and tear and damage beyond the control of the tenant, like a natural disaster.
“It also strengthens the law for prosecuting landlords who tenant unsuitable properties. The current jurisdiction of the Tenancy Tribunal is limited to residential buildings, meaning those who rent out unlawfully converted garages, warehouses or industrial buildings as living spaces can avoid accountability.
“These improvements to our tenancy laws will better protect responsible landlords and tenants and help our residential tenancy market function more effectively,” Dr Smith concluded.