Renters Rejoice: You Have New Rights
By Justin Hu
It’s no longer just a catchy opener for a Spinoff opinion piece or the title of a (pretty good) book, it’s an indisputable reality, as more people — disproportionately younger people — are now renting than have done so at any point in New Zealand history. Despite this, renting remains mostly a cottage industry, with tens of thousands of disputes between tenants and landlords settled by the Tenancy Tribunal every year.From February though, changes made by the government to the Residential Tenancies Act brought in a swathe of new rules to the sector. Here are the key details that you need to know if you’re one of the tens of thousands of students who rent.
No cause terminations are now banned. Tenants must receive a reason when they get told to leave. Landlords will only have the right to end your periodic tenancy if they wish to move into the home, if it will be sold or renovated, or if you haven’t been paying rent. Otherwise, they will have to prove a case of ‘anti-social behaviour’ at the Tenancy Tribunal. The notice period for how long your landlord has to give you warning has also been extended for both fixed-term and periodic tenancies.
Rental bidding is now banned. Landlords must now plainly list the asking price for all rentals and they cannot encourage you to bid against someone else.
Landlords must allow tenants to make ‘minor changes’ to the property like installing curtains, wall hooks, or a baby-gate. You as a tenant are responsible for organising and paying for installation, as well as also reversing the modification when you move out if the landlord doesn’t want to keep it. ‘Minor’ will remain up to interpretation between you, your landlord and the Tenancy Tribunal, but the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has a longer example list on its website.
In addition to the changes to what you can do to make your house feel more like a home, there’s also a special provision for allowing fibre broadband. This means that landlords must let you get fibre installed as long as they’re not footing the bill.
Tenancies don’t expire unless agreed upon. Fixed-term tenancies will now automatically roll over to become periodic tenancies unless landlords or tenants make alternate arrangements. Landlords can still terminate your tenancy using the periodic tenancy rules and other grounds for eviction, mentioned above.These changes were part of the second phase of the government’s recent law changes. The final phase in August 2021 will give renters additional rights for terminating a tenancy if they’re experiencing family violence.
The first wave of changes under the amended law were implemented last August. Those earlier changes primarily introduced rules which meant rent increases could only happen once a year as opposed to every six months.
Learn more about your rights at www.tenancy.govt.