Attention Landlords and Tenants — key changes are coming!

10 September 2020

There have been significant amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (RTA) which came into force on 12 August 2020. The changes are rolling out in three “stages”. The first stage came into effect on 12 August, and these changes are:

  1. Rent increases are now limited to once every 12 months; previously it was once every 180 days (six months).
  2. Transitional and emergency housing (i.e. accommodation funded for these purposes by the Government or part of a special needs grants programme) is exempt from the RTA.

The second stage comes into effect on 11 February 2021. The biggest change is the removal of no-fault 90-day termination notices, which can be issued to tenants without any reason. Now, landlords must prove at least three instances of anti-social behaviour within a 90-day period before they can terminate the tenancy (which must be ordered by the Tenancy Tribunal). Other changes include:

  1. Tenants need to give 28 days’ notice to vacate the premises, instead of 21 days.
  2. The landlord can make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal for eviction if a tenant’s rent is late by five working days at least three times within the 90-day period, or is 21 days late on one occasion.
  3. Tenants are now allowed to assign tenancies, and landlords cannot decline unreasonably.
  4. Parties can request anonymity regarding a Tenancy Tribunal hearing, and its outcome.
  5. Rental bidding is banned.Landlords must give 63 days’ notice instead of 42 days’ notice to move themselves, family, or employees into the property for it to be their “principal place of residence” for at least 90 days.
  6. When tenants are removed for renovation or demolition of the property, the work must begin within 90 days of the removal.
  7. Tenants can make minor changes to the property and landlords must not decline if the changes are “minor” (this includes tenants requesting to install fibre broadband). The landlord must respond to the tenant’s request to make a change within 21 days.
  8. Fixed term tenancies revert to periodic tenancies at the end of the fixed-term unless both landlord and tenant agree otherwise.
  9. The Tribunal can now handle claims of up to $100,000 (whereas previously, it was only $50,000).

Finally, the third stage comes into effect on 11 August 2021 (unless the Government decides they will take effect earlier). These changes are:

  1. Victims of family violence can end their tenancies with two days’ notice, upon providing evidence of the family violence to the landlord.
  2. Landlords can terminate tenancies with 14 days’ notice if a tenant is charged by the police with assaulting them (the landlord), a member of the landlord’s family or the landlord’s agent.

The amendments are wide reaching and will affect both tenants and landlords. If you are a tenant or landlord, make sure you’re up to date with these new changes and when they take effect.

Sam Hood is part of our Commercial Disputes & Employment team at Norris Ward McKinnon.

Commercial Disputes & Employment Team