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Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act

By Nicole Ching

In July 2015 Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith announced some important changes to The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 that will affect us all. These changes will strengthen the Act by providing new legal requirements around the insulation of all rental properties, the installation of smoke alarms and by allowing for better enforcement and faster resolution of abandoned tenancies.

What will this mean for Property Managers & Landlords?

– Every rental property in New Zealand must be insulated by July 2019
– As of July 2016 all Landlords must state, in the Tenancy Agreement, what the current level of insulation is, in the rental property, at the time of signing a lease
– Every rental property in New Zealand must have smoke alarms fitted by July 2016
– A 10 day process to gain back possession of abandoned properties and new powers for MBIE to investigate and prosecute Landlords or Property Managers

Under the proposed new changes, all rental properties (any non-government subsidised social housing)
must be insulated by 1st July 2019. As of 1st July 2016 all Landlords & Property Managers must also
disclose the current level of insulation in the Tenancy Agreement itself. Landlords and Property Managers
must ensure their rental properties have ceiling and underfloor insulation that meets the new standard
however exemptions will apply to properties where it is physically impractical to retrofit insulation e.g. limited
space underfloor or raked ceilings.

New regulations will make Landlords and Property Managers responsible for ensuring
that operational smoke alarms are in place, and that tenants are responsible for replacing batteries or
notifying the Landlord/ Property Manager of any defects. Long life (10 year) photoelectric smoke alarms
will be required where there is currently no alarm, or when replacing an existing one.

The new regulations will also include an updated 10-day process enabling Landlords and Property Managers
to .re-tenant. abandoned rental properties much faster. The current process can take anywhere up to 6 weeks
and has the ability to severely affect Landlords and leave them out of pocket. Although the changes are yet to
be made official, they will be presented to Parliament by October of this year in a Residential Tenancies
Amendment Bill and it is safe to assume that this will be passed and the changes will become law.

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