Residential Tenancies Act Changes
Recent changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (RTA) has meant amendments to multiple parts of tenancy law and all employers, not just RSE, need to be aware of how these changes affect Service Tenancies. The requirements in relation to service tenancies and changes arising are set out below.
What is a Service Tenancy
A service tenancy is when an employer provides accommodation for a worker to live in during their employment. This type of agreement is covered by the RTA, which means all the standard rules apply, except for a couple of differences about rent and ending a service tenancy. A written tenancy is still required, and even if the tenant does not pay rent the arrangement where an employer provides accommodation is still considered to be a service tenancy.
What do you need for a Service Tenancy
As part of a service tenancy, certain requirements need to be met including:
- A tenancy agreement signed by the employer (as landlord) and the employee or contractor (as tenant). This can be included in the employee or contractor agreement contract, although it is recommend having these separate
- Working smoke alarms or detectors within three metres of each bedroom door, or in every room where a person sleeps
- Insurance statement
- Intent to comply statement for the healthy homes standards
- Ceiling and under floor insulation and an insulation statement (which are parts of the healthy homes compliance statement, required from 1 December 2020).
The Tenancy Services website has a checklist that can be used to make sure properties are compliant, available at tenancy.govt.nz/landlord-compliance-checklist
The landlord may take the rent directly from the tenant’s pay each week or fortnight. This can only happen if:
- The tenant agrees
- It is in the employment contract
- It complies with employment law
If there is a longer pay period (eg, due to a holiday) the landlord can deduct the rent for that same longer period.
Ending a service tenancy
A service tenancy normally ends when the tenant’s employment ends and is different to other tenancies. If the tenant’s employment is ending, the landlord or the tenant must give at least 14 days’ written notice to end the tenancy. This notice can only be given if the tenant’s employment has ended or either party has given notice for it to end. In some situations, if the tenant’s employment has ended the landlord can give less than 14 days’ notice for the service tenancy to end. This also applies if the tenant is transferred with less than 14 days’ notice. This can only happen if:
- The landlord has reason to believe the tenant will cause substantial damage to the premises if the tenancy is permitted to remain for 14 days.
- The landlord’s business needs to have a new worker in place in less than 14 days. There must be no other suitable accommodation available for that former worker during the 14 days.
If the tenant’s employment or engagement is continuing:
- If the tenant wants to end their tenancy before their employment has ended, they must give 21 days’ written notice.
A landlord can only give notice to end a service tenancy if the tenant’s employment or engagement has ended or is due to end. A notice to end the service tenancy cannot generally take effect before the employment or engagement ends or before the transfer occurs.
Other changes to the RTA
Other changes arising in the updated RTA include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Tenants can ask to make changes to the property (including fixtures, renovations, alterations or additions) and landlords must not decline if the change is minor (ss42A and 42B);
- Tenants can request to install fibre broadband and landlords must agree if it can be installed at no cost to them (with specific exemptions) (s45B);
- Landlords must retain a series of documents including the tenancy agreement, reports of inspections, records of any building work requiring a building consent, prescribed electrical work, sanitary plumbing, gasfitting, or other maintenance and repaid (s123A).
If you have any concerns about your compliance with the RTA we strongly recommend you talk to a professional or review the RTA in detail.
Landlords and tenants should both understand these dates for complying with rental law.
Caravans, Mobile and Tiny Home Rules
Caravans/mobile homes and tiny houses can be used to accommodate seasonal workers throughout the western bay of plenty district. There are a number of rules that need to be met under the District Plan. You can read more about the rules here.
The use of frost fans is important when it comes to protecting crops from frost damage which can cause reduced yield and loss of revenue. The fans use the warmer air in the inversion layer (which can generally be found from 10-50 metres above the ground.) by angling the blade slightly downwards to pull the inversion layer down to ground level and blow it into the orchard or vineyard. Frost fans are turned on before a frost occurs, usually 0.5 to 1.5°C above freezing. Frost fans are subject to rules within district plans which can be found here.
Audible Bird Scaring Devices
Audible bird scaring devices can cause distress to neighbours if operated outside of noise rules. To help with the safe and compliant operation with these devices, NZKGI has compiled a fact sheet which contains the rules for each kiwifruit growing region. These rules are effective from September 2020 and can be found here.
Artificial Crop Protection Structure and Shelter Belt Guidance
NZKGI (along with HortNZ) have provided some guidance on artificial crop protection structures and shelter belts that can help with decision making on your orchard. You can see the guidance material here or alternatively contact NZKGI, Senior Policy Analyst, Sarah Cameron here.