Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) have finally moved into the home stretch, with the bill being reported back to Parliament from select committee.
By Rob Hosking
The committee has removed the controversial clause requiring landlords to disclose to prospective tenants whether a property has been subject to cleansing orders, for example because previous tenants have used the place as a P Lab.
Cleansing orders are already required on a property's land information memorandum (LIM) - something tenants can pick up from their local council.
Also Tenancy Tribunal rulings make it clear landlords are breaching the law if they lease a contaminated property.
Issues of damage to property and anti-social tenants have been the most controversial parts of the wider RTA changes.
This looks likely to continue as the committee has inserted a new clause into the bill about tenants' responsibilities relating to fire risks.
"We are aware that a number of landlords have had problems with tenants removing batteries from smoke alarms or disconnecting them altogether, and that some have noted tenants interfering with means of escape from fire on their properties...we recommend that the bill clearly prohibit tenants from causing or allowing any interference with, or rendering inoperative, any means of escape from fire as defined by the Building Act 2004," the report says.
The committee is holding firm on clauses requiring the Tenancy Tribunal to evict a tenant where the tenant has "caused or permitted" a visitor to assault or threaten other people, for example the landlord.
The committee says concerns by tenant advocacy groups this would be open to abuse are misplaced because there is clear case law around the meaning of "caused or permitted" and the tribunal will not be able to evict anyone unless the tenant had "contributed to, or had taken reasonable steps to prevent, an assault or threat of assault".
There are also changes to the rules around landlord obligations regarding goods abandoned by tenants.
The main changes are: