Big Changes

The new Residential Tenancies Act 2010 came into force from 31st January 2011. There are number of changes that affect both landlords and tenants:

Tenants Get More Time to Move Out

If a tenant is no longer under a fixed term agreement and the landlord wants the tenant to move out ‘without grounds’, the notice period increases from 60 to 90 days. If notice is given by a landlord just before the end of the lease, the notice period increases from 14 to 30 days.

Certainty for Landlords

If a tenant no longer on a lease does not move out after being given a ‘no grounds’ notice to vacate, the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal must terminate the agreement and return possession of the property to the landlord. The only exception to this is if the tenant can show that the notice was retaliatory.

Alterations

A tenant will still need their landlord’s written approval if they want to make a minor change to the premises, such as installing child safety locks on windows. Landlords will need to be reasonable, but will be able to say no if the tenant wants to paint the premises, make structural changes or do something that would be difficult to remove.

New Process for Goods Left Behind

Procedures for landlords and agents dealing with goods left behind when a tenant vacates have been streamlined. Rubbish and perishable items will be able to be disposed of immediately.

Sub–Letting

If a tenant wants to sub–let part of the premises or brings in an extra co–tenant, they will still need the landlord’s written approval first and landlord will need to be reasonable when considering such requests. It will be reasonable to refuse if the person is listed on a tenancy database or if an extra person would result in overcrowding.

Letterbox Service of Notices

There will be an additional option for serving notices – by hand delivery to a person’s letterbox.

Domestic Violence

Victims of domestic violence living in a rented property will have the right to change the locks and seek to take over the tenancy if their name is not already on the lease.

Rights of Co–Tenants

Some disputes between co–tenants in shared households will be able to be taken to the Tribunal. Once a fixed–term lease ends, a co–tenant can give 21 days notice to end their contract with the landlord. This will bring an end to their liability for future rent, damage, etc.

Holding Fees

Holding fees will only be able to be charged once a tenancy application has been approved. If the tenant pulls out after paying a holding fee they will lose the whole fee rather than a pro–rata amount.

Improved Disclosure

Before a lease is signed, prospective tenants will be required to be told certain things, such as if the landlord has drawn up a contract to sell the property or if a bank or other lender has started court action to recover possession of the premises.

Optional Lease ‘Break Fee’

Landlords will have the option of including a fixed penalty in the lease (a break fee), in the event that a tenant breaks a lease before the end of the fixed term period. Where there is no such penalty in the lease, the tenant will still be liable to compensate the landlord for any loss.

Additional Grounds for Eviction

Landlords will be able to apply to the Tribunal to end a tenancy if the tenant uses the premises for an illegal purpose or if they threaten, abuse, intimidate or harass the landlord or agent.

Breaking a Lease Early

Tenants will be able to end a fixed–term lease in certain situations, such as when they accept an offer of public housing or need to move to a nursing home.

Sale of Rented Premises

Selling agents must make reasonable efforts to agree with tenants on the days and times the premises will be available for inspection. Two inspection periods each week will be allowed, and the parties can negotiate if more access is required.

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