New recipe for renting

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Rental agents reckon tenants and landlords will both benefit from law changes due next month. 

It’s been 24 years since the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 was passed and amending it has taken nine years by four governments. 

Doug MacGillivray of Resort Property Rentals says: “All of a sudden, the law has a little bit of teeth and it works both ways. 

“It’s just making everybody behave themselves a little bit better.” 

Hayley Stevenson of Housemart Queenstown feels landlords in particular will get extra protection. 

“It probably evens up the playing field a wee bit more. It had been leaning in favour of the tenant,” she says. 

“The changes are a very clear indication of what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong – and if you’re wrong, you’re going to pay for it,” Queenstown Accommodation Centre co-owner Allan Baillie says. 

Baillie says “property abandonments” are common in the Wakatipu, with tenants walking away – leaving landlords frustrated at being unable to access Department of Building and Housing bonds to repair damage. 

Now DB&H can release bonds to landlords unless tenants object within 10 days. The amount a tenant or landlord can claim at a Tenancy Tribunal hearing will also rise from $12,000 to $50,000. 

Landlords and agents will be better able to pin tenants down on their responsibilities too, Baillie predicts. 

“If the information’s been given to the tenant, they’re obliged to act on it.” 

A typical local example would be wiping down window sills every two or three days in winter to prevent condensation and mould from staining curtains. 

“And if you don’t [wipe the sills], you’ll have to pay to get the curtains cleaned,” Baillie says. 

All three agents understandably applaud one amendment which will drive new business to their doors. 

Landlords going overseas for three weeks or more will now have to appoint an agent. 

“It’s always been a problem,” Stevenson says. 

“People let [the property] and head back to Australia and while the cat’s away, the mice will play. The neighbours ring the owners in Brisbane or Sydney – what are they going to do about it?” 

The amended Residential Tenancies Act can be found at www.dbh.govt.nz