Phase Three Of RTA Delayed
The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill is experiencing delays with its third and final phase, writes Sharon Cullwick.
1 September 2021
In early 2020 the Government introduced to Parliament the Residential Tenancies Amendment (RTA) Bill to amend the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. By August the bill had passed its first, and second readings. The Social Services and Community Committee continued with hearing oral submissions during the first countrywide Covid-19 lockdown. Minimal changes were made after the submission process and the bill received Royal Assent on August 11, 2020. It became law on February 11, 2021 and was to be introduced in three phases over this year.
Phase one, which was quickly implemented after Royal Assent, was the removal of transitional and emergency housing from the RTA, and an extension of Covid-19 regulations limiting rent increases to once every 12 months.
Phase two, which was the majority of the changes, was then implemented on February 11, 2021. These changes included the following.
• Increasing tenants’ security of tenure by removing the ability of landlords to terminate a tenancy with a 90-day no-cause notice, increasing the notice periods for selling a property to 90 days and requiring tenants to give 28 days’ notice if they wish to terminate their tenancy.
• Making fixed-term tenancies automatically roll over to periodic tenancies unless both parties agree to extend, renew or end the tenancies.
• Giving a tenant the ability to make minor changes to the property which the landlord cannot unreasonably deny. The tenant, however, must ensure the property is put right at the end of the tenancy. Examples of these changes are installing additional fire alarms and door bells, securing furniture in order to baby proof the home or protect it against earthquake risk, and installing curtains.
• Prohibiting rental bidding and the displaying of the price when advertising a property for rent.
• Allowing a tenant to install fibre as long as there is no cost to the landlord. The installation must not affect the water tightness of the property, must not compromise the structural integrity of the building and must not go against body corporate rules.
• Making changes to the Tenancy Tribunal allowing a tenant to apply for name suppression of their private or identifying details if they are successful.
• Giving a tenant the ability to assign a tenancy to someone else which the landlord cannot unreasonably decline.
•Increasing the amount of information required to be kept by a landlord to include a written tenancy agreement, any advertisements used when looking for a tenant, and information on prospective tenants, building works, electrical work, gas fitting and plumbing and Healthy Homes compliance.
• Significantly increasing the fines against landlords for unlawful acts and pecuniary penalties up to $100,000. Strengthening the enforcement powers and staff numbers of the MBIE Compliance and Investigation Team. • Increasing the Tenancy Tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear cases up to $100,000 including the ability to issue higher infringements fees to landlords with six or more houses.
Phase three, which was due to be implemented on August 11, 2021, has been extended as the details are still to be finalised. This phase was an additional 15 pages of supplementary order papers when the RTA was passed and relates to family violence and assault against a landlord. This means that landlords and tenants won’t be able to use these provisions under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 until the associated regulations come into effect.