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Changes coming for residential tenancies

09 July 2015

New Residential Tenancies Act 1986 measures are to be introduced with new requirements for insulation, smoke alarms, better enforcement and faster resolution of abandoned tenancies.

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith says the new law will require retrofitting of ceiling and underfloor insulation in rental homes over the next four years.

"The requirement applies from 1 July 2016 for social housing that is heavily subsidised by Government, and from 1 July 2019 for other rental housing, including boarding houses.  There will be exemptions, such as where it is physically impractical to retrofit insulation due to limited space underfloor or inaccessible raked ceilings," Dr Smith says.

"There will also be a new requirement from 1 July 2016 for all landlords to state in tenancy agreements the level of ceiling, underfloor and wall insulation to help better inform tenants. These new insulation requirements in our tenancy laws are the logical next step following our programme to retrofit insulation in 53,000 state houses and the 280,000 grants from the Warm Up New Zealand scheme.

"Smoke alarms will also be required in all tenanted properties from 1 July 2016. Regulations will make landlords responsible for ensuring an operational smoke alarm is in place, and tenants responsible for replacing batteries or notifying landlords of defects. Long life (10-year) photoelectric alarms will be required where there is no existing alarm or when replacing an existing alarm.

"The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will have new powers to investigate and prosecute landlords for breaking tenancy laws as part of these reforms, particularly where there is risk to the health and safety of tenants. The changes will also ensure tenants can take concerns to the Tenancy Tribunal without fear of being evicted for doing so.

"There will be a new 10-day process introduced to enable re-tenanting of properties where a tenant abandons a property with no intention of returning. The current process can take up to six weeks leaving a house empty and the landlord out of pocket."

Dr Smith says the changes will require 180,000 homes to be insulated and the 120,000 homes currently without smoke alarms to have them installed. 

He says the package was agreed to be Cabinet on 6 July 2015 and will be included in a Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill to be introduced to Parliament by October. The specific regulations on the insulation and smoke alarms will be consulted on in parallel with the select committee process.

Full details of the proposed changes are available here.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019