Overview of Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 (“RTAA”) was passed on 30 July 2019 and came into effect on 27 August 2019. The RTAA addresses key issues that have implications for both landlord and tenant including: tenant liability for damage, insurance statements, contamination of premises and unlawful residential premises.

Tenant liability for damage: The RTAA provides that if tenants or their guests damage a rental property due to their careless behaviour, the tenant will have to pay for the cost of the damage up to (whichever is the lower) a maximum of four weeks’ rent or the landlord’s insurance excess.

This amendment aims to encourage tenants to look after the premises they are renting, while ensuring they are not responsible for unreasonable repair costs. On the other hand, it also ensures that landlords are not burdened with the entire repair cost as a result of their tenant’s damage to the premises.

Notwithstanding the above, tenants are still fully responsible for the cost of intentional damage to the premises.

Insurance statements: Landlords must provide a copy of their insurance details to the tenant, including whether the property is insured, and if so, what the excess is. With an existing tenancy (pre 27 August 2019), the tenant can request this information from the landlord. If the landlord does not provide the information, or inform tenants of changes to insurance details, the landlord may be fined with up to $500.

Contamination of premises: Landlords can test for meth contamination, while the rented premises are occupied, by giving tenants at least 48 hours’ notice. All information in this newsletter is to the best of the authors’ knowledge true and accurate. No liability is assumed by the authors, or publishers, for any losses suffered by any person relying directly or indirectly upon this newsletter. It is recommended that clients should consult a senior representative of the firm before acting upon this information. Landlords must notify their tenant that they are testing for meth and the tenant has the right to see the test results.

Recently there have been discussions regarding meth testing and what the acceptable standard of contamination (if any) is. The RTAA allows for regulations (yet to be introduced) for determining the process for testing, the acceptable contamination level, and the decontamination process. Landlords will not be able to rent premises that they know are contaminated at an unacceptable level.

Unlawful residential premises: Under the RTAA, the definition of ‘residential premises’ is amended so that even if a premises cannot be legally lived in, such as a garage or industrial building, but is lived in or intended to be lived in, they will still fall within the definition of a residential premises and accordingly be captured under the RTAA and fall within the jurisdiction of the Tenancy Tribunal. The Tenancy Tribunal can enforce the RTAA against landlords who breach the RTAA regardless of whether the premises are suitable for living in or not.

This change ensures that landlords are providing premises that meet all requirements relating to buildings and health and safety.

If a landlord provides an unlawful residential premises to their tenant, the landlord may be liable to pay all or some of the rent back to the tenant, the tenancy may be terminated, the landlord may be liable to the tenant for damages, or any other order the Tenancy Tribunal may provide.

Whether you are planning to become a landlord or tenant, we suggest speaking to your lawyer to assist with preparing a tenancy agreement in accordance with the RTAA. If you are an existing landlord or tenant, we suggest you revise the rights and obligations under the RTAA with your lawyer to ensure your tenancy arrangement(s) are compliant under the RTAA.