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30-05-2008

Greater protection for tenants under new RTA bill

The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) amendment bill introduced to Parliament today will give greater protection to vulnerable tenants and; help both landlords and tenants to understand and enforce their respective rights, according to Building and Construction Minister Shane Jones.
 
The existing Residential Tenancies Act 1986 does not provide adequate protection to those living in boarding houses and some rented retirement accommodation where meals or cleaning services are provided.
 
Amendments proposed in the new bill will give that protection. Boarding houses with six or more tenants will become subject to the Act, as will some rented retirement accommodation.
 
Another key proposal will introduce sanctions for landlords who fail to meet their maintenance responsibilities. Landlords will also be able to seek damages for some tenant breaches.
 
Both landlords and tenants will benefit from improved clarity around rights and obligations, and from improved dispute resolution and enforcement processes.
 
“It’s over 20 years since the original Act came into force. In that time there have been significant changes to the nature and scale of the residential rental market," Mr Jones said.
 
“The number of people renting has increased as has the diversity of those renting with an increasing proportion of family households and older people renting.
 
“The increasing popularity of property as an investment has also seen a significant increase in the size of the private rental sector.
 
“These changes mean it’s essential we achieve an appropriate balance between landlords’ and tenants’ rights and obligations, because the bigger the rental market gets, the bigger its social and economic impact.
 
In summary, the Bill:
  • extends of the Residential Tenancy Act’s coverage to boarding houses and to some rented accommodation where services such as meals or cleaning are provided
  • increases the monetary jurisdiction of the Tenancy Tribunal and penalties for breaches of the Act
  • increases the enforceability of Tenancy Tribunal orders by, for example, enabling a party to recover private debt collection costs
  • limits tenant liability for damage to their rental premises to four weeks’ rent if the Tenancy Tribunal is satisfied that the tenant neither caused the damage intentionally or recklessly, nor intentionally or recklessly encouraged or permitted another person to damage the premises
  • retains incentives for tenants to look after the premises
  • clarifies responsibility for outgoings such as rates, insurance and water use
  • allows for tenant breaches, such as sub-letting without consent, over-populating the premises or becoming a problem neighbour, to be subject to exemplary damages, as an alternative to eviction
  • clarifies the status of body corporate rules, with remedies for tenants if body corporate rules change during a tenancy
  • prohibits tenants being charged ‘letting fees’.
For further information, please contact Sri Krishnamurthi, Press Secretary, Minister of Building and Construction, 04 4719805 or 021 225 9805
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