With over 34 percent of people in New Zealand renting the property they live in, the passing of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (“the Bill”) has the potential to significantly impact the tenant and landlord relationship; particularly with regard to ending a tenancy.
One of the reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (“RTA”) relates to the tenancy agreement and how it may be ended. There are two different types of tenancy agreements a tenant can enter into, fixed term or periodic. A fixed term tenancy agreement is where the landlord and tenant agree on a period of time with an end date, where the tenant will occupy the landlord’s property. A periodic tenancy agreement is on-going, until either the landlord or tenants decide to end the agreement.
Prior to the reforms, to end a periodic tenancy tenants had to give landlords 21 days’ notice, as to when they will be ending the tenancy. Landlords had
to give 90 days’ notice to the tenants, without having to give any reason or explain why they were ending the tenancy.
Under the Bill, and effective from 11 February 2021, a landlord can no longer end a tenancy without giving a valid reason. The specified reasons by which a periodic tenancy can be ended by the landlord are given in the RTA and include:
- The landlord issued a tenant three notices for separate anti-social acts in a 90-day period.
- The landlord gave notice that a tenant was at least five working days late with their rent payment on three separate occasions within a 90-day period.
- The landlord intends to carry out extensive renovations at the property and it would be impractical for the tenant to live there during that process.
The Bill also changes what happens when a fixed-term tenancy agreement comes to an end. Under the new rules, a fixed-term agreement will convert into a periodic tenancy unless:
- A landlord gives notice using the reasons listed in the RTA for periodic tenancies
- A tenant gives notice for any reason at least 28 days before the end of the tenancy
- The parties agree otherwise e.g. to renew the fixed term or to end the tenancy
Some of the drivers behind the changes, according to Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi, are “More Kiwis than ever are renting now, including families with young children, as well as older people, and it’s important that there are appropriate protections in place for them. Renters should be able to put down roots in their community and not face the stress of continually having to find a new home.”
Evicting a tenant on a periodic contract
Given that the requirements for ending a periodic tenancy under the Bill are met and upheld, it is an unlawful act if the tenant stays in the tenancy without the permission of the landlord. If a tenant stays at the property without the permission of the landlord, the landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal (“Tribunal”) for rectification.
If the tenant refuses to leave, a landlord should try self-mediation first and try to come to an agreement with the tenant. If an agreement cannot be made the landlord should then follow the steps of applying to the Tribunal. These steps are:
- register to apply,
- log in to the Tenancy Tribunal Application online tool and fill in the application form, and
- pay the application fee ($20.44) online and submit the application.
The Tribunal hearing will usually be within 20 working days of the application. If you are successful the Tribunal may order the other party to reimburse the application fee along with the other remunerations.