Changes to the Residential Tenancy Act

Housing Minister Chris Bishop has announced a host of changes to the Residential Tenancies Act.

Announcing proposed changes, Housing Minister Chris Bishop said the previous government had “waged a war on landlords,” causing many to exit and worse outcomes for tenants.

Changes part of the National-Act coalition agreement represent a shift back to previous regulations and fulfil part of National’s pre-election commitments.

Changes include:

  • Reintroduction of 90-day ‘no cause’ terminations

Landlords can once again end a periodic tenancy without requiring a specific reason – a change intended to encourage more landlords to take a chance on a wider range of tenants, including those who don’t have great references or a steady job.

  • The return of landlords’ notice periods for ending a periodic tenancy to 42 days where:

– they want to move themselves or a family member into the property, or

– the tenancy agreement notes the property is usually used to house employees, and they want to move an employee into the property, or

– where the property is subject to an unconditional agreement for sale requiring vacant possession.

  • Returning tenants’ notice period for ending a periodic tenancy to 21 days.
  • Reintroducing landlords’ ability to give notice to end a fixed-term tenancy at the end of the term, without requiring a specific reason.

In a damning assessment of the previous government’s policies, Bishop highlighted rents up by $170 per week since 2017, the social housing waitlist increasing by about 20,000 families, and thousands of families living in emergency housing motels.

Bishop described the proposed changes as “sensible pro-tenant changes to help increase the supply of rental properties,” which were likely to apply ” downward pressure to rents”.

“These changes are part of the Government’s plan to create a well-functioning rental property market, which itself is part of the wider plan to solve New Zealand’s housing crisis,” he said. “We’ve heard from many landlords that, without the backstop of 90-day no-cause terminations, they were unwilling to take a chance on a tenant who may, for example, not have perfect references or a steady 9-5 job.”

Good news for pet owners looking for rental accommodation

Further tweaks to the Residential Tenancy Act will make renting easier for pet owners.

Earlier this month Minister Bishop and his dog, Ladyhawke, with ACT leader and Regulations Minister David Seymour, announced a two-week pet bond and obligations for tenants to pay for damage their animals cause.

Proposed changes:

  • A pet bond (a maximum of two weeks’ rent) can be charged in addition to the existing bond.
  • Tenants will be liable for all pet damage to properties beyond fair wear and tear, whether accidental or deliberate.
  • Tenants can only have a pet or pets with the landlord’s consent. The landlord can withhold consent on reasonable grounds.

“Pets are important members of many Kiwi families. It’s estimated that around 64% of New Zealand households own at least one pet, and 59% of people who don’t have a pet would like to get one,” Bishop said. “Anyone who has ever tried to find a pet-friendly rental property will know how hard it is, so we’re going to make it easier.”

Seymour said the policy would fix the problem of tenants being locked out of rental markets, due to landlords being unwilling to take a risk on tenants with pets.

Hopefully the proposed changes, likely to come into effect early 2025, will improve the situation.

Changes to the Residential Tenancy Act won’t come into effect till 2025. But you need to think about their implications now. Call 0800 GOODWINS for a chat.