Rental reforms to protect domestic abuse victims

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Reform of New Zealand’s tenancy laws is progressing with further improvements included to protect victims of family violence being added to the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2020.

“At the Select Committee we heard people are concerned about the lack of protection for tenants who are victims of family violence,” says Associate Minister of Housing (Public Housing), Kris Faafoi.

“This Government has a zero-tolerance approach to family violence. We have listened to submitters and added a provision which enables victims of family violence to end a tenancy with two days’ notice. This means that tenants who are experiencing family violence will be better able to leave tenancies quickly and seek safety."

To use this provision, tenants will need to provide supporting evidence of family violence with their notice. This might include a signed declaration by a women’s refuge worker or a Protection Order from the Family Court.

“We’ve also added additional protections for landlords.

“Where a tenant assaults a landlord, their family member or agent and the Police lay a charge in respect of the assault, the landlord can give 14 days’ notice to terminate the tenancy. If tenants think they were given notice unfairly, they can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to challenge the notice,” says Faafoi.

When issuing such a notice, the landlord needs to provide evidence that the Police have laid a charge involving a physical assault.

Where a tenant challenges this type of notice at the Tenancy Tribunal, the landlord will need to satisfy the Tribunal that the alleged assault occurred.

This provision is in addition to an existing provision which allows landlords to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to terminate a tenancy due to assault.

Another change brings forward a new rule limiting rent increases to once every 12 months.

From the day after Royal assent, any rent increase notice will need to comply with the 12-month rule.

Rent increases can take effect from 26 September 2020. That is the end of the COVID-19 freeze on rent increases.

“We know that a lot of New Zealanders, including tenants, are facing financial pressures due to COVID-19.

"Tenants deserve to have security that their rent will remain the same for one full year at a time, and not face the insecurity of potentially being priced out of their home every six months."

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill includes a provision in response to COVID-19 restrictions, which enabled the Tenancy Tribunal to hear cases by telephone or video conference, and to make decisions on cases conducted that way.

“These provisions were due to expire on 26 September and will now continue for another six months. This will improve Tribunal flexibility and help to reduce waiting times.”

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill will now go to the Committee of the Whole House.

“The Bill will improve security of tenure for tenants who are meeting their obligations, provide the Regulator (the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) with the necessary enforcement tools to support compliance, and enable tenants to make their properties safer and more liveable."

Some of the reforms being considered:

  • Victims of family violence can end a tenancy with two days’ notice
  • Landlords can terminate tenancies with 14 days’ notice if tenants assault them
  • Timeframe brought forward for limiting rent increases to once every 12 months
  • Extension of time Tenancy Tribunal can hear cases via phone/video conference

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