Tenancy bill targets meth contamination
Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith has introduced the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (No 2) to Parliament.
The bill would amend the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 with the objective of making three changes: to better manage methamphetamine contamination in rental premises, liability for careless damage to rental property caused by a tenant, and tenancies over rental premises that are unlawful for residential use.
Damage or destruction
The provisions relating to the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords for damage or destruction to rental premises follow the Court of Appeal's decision in Holler v Osaki  NZCA 130, where the Court ruled that residential tenants are immune from a claim by the landlord where the rental premises suffer loss or damage caused carelessly or negligently by the tenant or tenant’s guest to the extent provided in sections 268 and 269 of the Property Law Act 2007.
Dr Smith says the ruling means landlords cannot recover the costs of damage, including the excess charge on any insurance policy.
"The changes are needed to ensure tenants have an incentive to take good care of a property, and for the landlord to have appropriate insurance," he says.
Dr Smith says landlords will have easier access to test for meth and tenants will be able to terminate their tenancy if it presents at unsafe levels after testing has been carried out in accordance with regulations. He says Standards New Zealand is working on appropriate contamination thresholds and the bill will enable these to be legally recognised and enforceable before the Tenancy Tribunal.
“Under the Bill, tenants will be liable for the cost of their landlord’s insurance excess up to a maximum of four weeks’ rent for each incident of damage caused by carelessness. A tenant remains fully liable where the damage is deliberate or a criminal act, and the landlord liable for fair wear and tear and damage beyond the control of the tenant, like a natural disaster."
Premises unfit for residential purposes
The third group of amendments made by the Bill addresses the application of the principal Act to premises that are not lawfully able to be used for residential purposes following the High Court decision in Anderson v FM Custodians Ltd  NZHC 2423. The High Court found that where a property is not lawfully able to be used for residential purposes it is not a "residential premises" as defined in the principal Act, and therefore tenancies over such premises are not covered by the principal Act and the Tenancy Tribunal does not have jurisdiction.
Last updated on the 16th September 2019