New RTA- What Does Minor Changes to a Property mean?
As discussed in last month’s blog, at The Rent Shop our focus is to guide our Landlords through the process with new changes in Legislation with education and ensuring your properties meet compliance with these changes. We will continue to keep you updated each month on how the implementation of these changes affects you.
If you haven’t already read last month’s blog, please visit https://www.therentshop.co.nz/post/rta-changes
The introduction of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 has led to lots of questions as both landlords and tenants try to interpret the complexities of the amendments.
The first change that we will be looking at is the ability of the tenants to make minor changes and what they can and cannot do.
The tenant wants to make a minor change to their home. What should they do?
The first thing they need to do is contact their landlord. If a tenant makes a minor change without seeking prior approval from their landlord, they are committing an unlawful act. The maximum exemplary damages for such as breach is $1,500. The tenant will need to send the landlord a written request seeking consent to make the changes.
What must the landlord do if they receive the request from the tenant?
The landlord cannot ignore the request. This is an unlawful act with exemplary damages up to $1,500. The landlord will need to respond to the request in writing within 21 days. The landlord must have a valid reason to decline the request, for example, the request may be in breach of body corporate rules. If the landlord consent to the request, they can impose reasonable conditions. An example of this could be that a TV bracket is affixed at a certain height or location.
What is a minor change?
This is where the painting of a room comes into play. If a tenant requested that they could paint a room, my opinion would be to say “no.” Why?
A minor change is defined under section 42B as the following. Any fixture, renovation, alteration, or addition to the premises that:
· presents no more than a low risk of material damage to the premises; and would allow the premises to be returned easily to substantially the same condition; and
· does not pose a risk to health and safety (including during work to install, remove, or undo the minor change)that cannot
reasonably practicably be eliminated or minimised; and
· does not compromise the structural integrity, weather tightness, or character of any building; and
· would not have an unreasonable negative effect on any person’s enjoyment or use of any property outside the premises; and
· does not require any regulatory consent (for example, a building consent); and
· does not breach any obligation or restriction relevant to the premises (for example, an obligation or a restriction imposed by a bylaw, a planning or body corporate rule, or a covenant).
The key point here is painting a room is complex and needs time to prepare the area, ensuring that the right paint and primer is used. Therefore, it is not easy to return the premises to substantially the same condition. Therefore, it is our opinion, painting a bedroom would not constitute a minor change.
Also, in our experience, when landlords have agreed to allow tenants to do painting, approximately 50% of the time there are issues around the quality of the work done which leads to disputes. You are best to say no.
However, be aware that Tenancy Tribunal may take a different view. We only generally find out these things when we have case law that can set precedents. Examples of how Tribunal viewing things differently is having a carpet cleaning clause. Our opinion is that having a carpet cleaning clause is fair and reasonable as the carpets will have accumulated dirt and dust over an extended period. Therefore, a landlord should be able to ask a tenant to clean the carpets. The Tribunal takes a different approach and claims that getting tenants to clean carpets goes beyond reasonable. Everything is open to interpretation.
Who pays for the changes?
It is the tenants’ responsibility to pay for the changes.
What happens at the end of the tenancy?
The landlord can ask the tenant to return the property to a condition that is similar to the state it was in before the change was made. This is defined in the Act as ‘substantially the same condition’. If the landlord states that the tenant must do this and the tenant fails to comply, this is defined as an unlawful act. Maximum exemplary damages for this are $1,500.
The landlord and tenant can agree to leave the premise as is if they wish. The cost of returning the premises to substantially the same condition is the tenants’ responsibility.
What are examples of minor changes?
Depending on the circumstances, examples of minor changes could include:
- installing minor accessibility changes that improve safety for disabled people such as visual alerts for fire, security alarms and doorbells, where this has low impacts and will be reversed at the conclusion of the tenancy.
- securing furniture or appliances to protect against earthquake risk or to make a property child safe.
- installing dishwashers and washing machines
- installing a baby gate
- installing shelving
- Installing gardens when these can be returned to the original state at the conclusion of the tenancy.
- Installing picture hooks.
At The Rent Shop, we want to ensure that both tenants and landlords are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities- rest in the knowledge that your investment is in capable hands. If you have any questions, please contact your Property Manager. If you are an owner on investor and would like to know more about our Comprehensive Services, please contact our friendly Business Development Team on 09 555-9100
Ka Kite Ano, until next month!