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The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill

A look at the changes for landlords and tenants

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill was introduced to Parliament on 3 December 2015, and with it came a number of interesting proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. Two of the main aims of the Bill are: to improve the safety of residential rental properties by requiring smoke alarms and insulation in all residential rental properties and to make the process around abandoned rental properties more efficient.

Smoke alarms and insulation requirements

The proposed Bill would require a landlord to ensure that their residential rental property has working smoke alarms while making the tenant responsible for changing the alarm batteries and notifying the landlord of any faulty alarms.

The proposed Bill would further require underfloor and
ceiling insulation. The requirement in respect of insulation splits residential rental properties into two categories; income-related rent tenancies and all other tenancies. An income- related rent tenancy generally refers to a property where the rent is based on the tenant’s income under the Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Act 1992, but excludes boarding houses. For these income-related rent tenancies, insulation is required from 1 July 2016, while all other rental properties require insulation from 1 July 2019.

Under the proposed amendments a landlord is also required to provide information about the insulation of the premises in the tenancy agreement for the property. This will include whether there is insulation and if so, the details of that insulation. The Bill proposes that a landlord commits an unlawful act if
this information is omitted from the tenancy agreement or if the landlord knows the information is false or misleading.

Overall, the aim of these two requirements is to ensure the health and safety of the occupiers of a residential rental property without imposing excessive costs on a landlord.

The process around abandoned rental properties

A rental property is an “abandoned rental property” where the tenant is in arrears and has left the property with no obvious intention of returning to it.
The current process under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 for abandoned rental property cases can take up to six weeks. The Bill proposes a process which will take ten working days after an application is filed with the Tenancy Tribunal. Reducing the time to confirm abandonment of a tenancy will enable a landlord to re-tenant their property, which reduces the loss of rental income.

The Bill also proposes giving a landlord the right to enter the rental premises where the rent is at least 14 days in arrears and where the landlord has reasonable cause to believe that the tenant has abandoned the property. Furthermore, the Bill proposes that a landlord may enter the premises to confirm abandonment if notice has been given to the tenant no less than 24 hours prior to entry.

The Social Services Committee report on the Bill is due on 8 June 2016 which will take into account public submissions about the proposed changes.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

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