New tenancy laws – the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019

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Landlords and tenants – are you up to speed with last year’s changes to the Residential Tenancies Act? In August 2019, the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 came into force. It made significant changes to tenancy laws that affect both landlords and tenants. So if you own a rental property, or you are a tenant yourself, you’ll want to read on.

In a nutshell, the new tenancy laws include limiting tenants’ liability for careless damage in rental properties, and new protection for tenants if landlords do not provide rentals which meet minimum standards. There are also changes to the way meth testing is dealt with, and insurance requirements for landlords.

Summary of new rental regulations in 2019:

Limiting tenant liability for damage

Tenants are liable for careless or intentional damage to a rental property they are living in, but only to a maximum of four weeks’ rent, or the landlord’s insurance policy excess – whichever is lower.

This means, if you are a landlord without sufficient insurance, you may find yourself out of pocket for repairs that cost more than the equivalent of four weeks’ rent.

Landlord insurance requirements

Landlords must now provide details of their insurance in all new tenancy agreements. This includes whether the rental property is insured, and what the excess is. Existing tenants can ask their landlords for these details, and all tenants can ask to see their landlord’s insurance policy within a reasonable timeframe.

New rights for tenants in “unlawful residential premises”

If a rental property does not meet the standards to be legally lived in, the new tenancy laws give tenants more power to hold their landlord to account.

Tenants living in “unlawful rental premises”, such as those that don’t meet the Healthy Homes Standards, now have the right to terminate their tenancy with just two days’ notice. If they fall into arrears, the Tenancy Tribunal cannot order the tenant to pay up, and may even ask the landlord to reimburse the tenant for any rent paid for living in an unlawful rental premises, as well as requiring the landlord to bring the property up to scratch.

Meth testing of tenanted properties

The new rental laws give landlords the right to carry out meth testing on their rental property while tenants are living there, with 48 hours’ notice, or 24 hours’ notice for boarding houses. Landlords must tell tenants they are testing for meth (or any other contaminants), and share the results with their tenants within seven days.

If you’re a landlord or a tenant who would like expert advice on where you stand following the changes in the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019, our Property Law team is here to help. Get the right legal advice early on – talk to us today.

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