Tenancy.co.nz

Emergency changes to the RTA create issues for farmers

The New Zealand farming community is asking the government to review legislation that allows tenants to stay in accommodation.

On March 25, the day before Alert Level 4 lockdown, the government passed the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Act.

Among several changes to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is a new law that prevents landlords giving termination notices to tenants until June 26, except for extreme rent arrears or other serious anti-social reasons.

This new law, however, has created a conundrum for many dairy farmers in New Zealand.

DairyNZ told Stuff.co.nz that many workers have a house included in part of their contract. At the end of the dairy season, those who work on dairy farms often shift to a new farm which comes with a new job and new accommodation.

The start date of new contracts for dairy farmers traditionally occurs annually on June 1.

DairyNZ confirmed to Stuff.co.nz that a number of farmers hired new workers before these new laws were introduced and are now unable to house them and their families.

Tenancy.co.nz property management consultant Scotney Williams​ said if the worker’s employment package included accommodation, and they were paying rent, then they were considered to be a tenant, and did not have to move until June 26.

“If they are deemed to be tenants, and they have given the landlord notice that they are staying then I don’t think there is anything the landlord can do,” Williams told Stuff.co.nz

“It creates a huge amount of uncertainty for the new worker coming in, and for the landlord.”

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said it encouraged farmers and tenants to talk to each other and come to a compromise that suits all parties.

The emergency changes to the RTA will be reviewed on June 26 by the Labour-led Government.

If the law reverts back to normal after June 26, farming landlords may be able to give tenants 14-day notices to terminate the tenancy under Section 53 of the RTA, if the employee contract of service has expired.

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