The Human Rights Commission has submitted its concerns around the human rights implications of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (No.2) and recommended it not be passed in its current form.
The Commission’s submission to the Local Government and Environment Committee focuses on two important aspects of the bill – amendments that would make tenants liable for all or part of any damage caused to rental property by carelessness of negligence, and additional powers and rights to landlords when a rental property is contaminated by methamphetamine.
Chief Commissioner David Rutherford says the bill, as it stands, has the potential to put a higher duty of care burden on tenants, as compared to landlords, and the lack of adequate safeguards in relation to the termination provisions could see the processes invoked inappropriately.
“New Zealand’s housing issues mean more Kiwis are renters than ever before. Due care needs to be taken when putting in place legislation that could have a huge impact on the housing situation of a growing number of people and their families,” he says.
“As this proposed bill currently stands, it has the potential to drive up rental costs and subject some tenants, who are not at fault, to tenancy termination without their consent or compensation. This is unacceptable.”
The Commission has made several recommendations to the committee including:
- Consider the impact of tenant liability for careless damage on affordability in the private rental market,
- Amend the Bill to incorporate the amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act that are set out in the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2) and take other steps to enact a more reciprocal private rental legislative framework,
- Review the grounds of termination with a view to ensuring that:
- Tenants without fault or contribution are not subject to a termination of tenancy without their consent and provision of appropriate compensation,
- The personal circumstances of tenants must be taken into account prior to any decision being made, review the notice period for termination and ensure that affected tenants are provided with an adequate opportunity to appeal the decision and arrange advice and advocacy in doing so.
“The balance between meeting the human rights needs of renters in New Zealand, while also protecting the rights of landlords and their properties needs to be found. This bill has not yet found that balance,” Mr Rutherford says.