The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have announced a surprise change in relation to two new sections of the RTA, despite a lack of regulation.
The provisions from the RTA Amendment Act 2020, which enable victims of family violence to leave a tenancy at short notice, under Section 56B, and to enable landlords to terminate tenancies where a charge has been filed for assault, under Section 55AA, are now in force according to HUD.
These sections were meant to become law in August of 2021 but were apparently not enforceable because regulations needed to be passed.
There has now been a change of tune
“We have received legal advice that the provisions are in effect and can be used, even though the regulations are not yet in force,” policy and legislation design manager, Clair Leadbetter said.
This means a tenant can give their landlord a family violence withdrawal notice, attaching a form of evidence, and expect it to have effect.
A landlord can serve a termination notice on a tenant if the tenant physically assaults them (or the landlord’s agent or a member of their family), the Police file a charge related to the assault, and the notice attaches a form of evidence the Police have filed a charge.
“Please note the guidance is interim and not the same as detailed regulation,” Leadbetter said.
“We cannot pre-empt the decisions that the Tenancy Tribunal may make related to the family violence withdrawal notice provisions or the termination for physical assault provisions if a dispute is brought in front of them. “
For family violence withdrawal notices, the notice must attach at least one form of evidence that the tenant has experienced family violence during the tenancy.
In the absence of regulations, examples of acceptable evidence could include:
- a letter or email from a medical professional (for example, a doctor or nurse), a social worker, or a family violence service provider
- a Police Safety Order, a Protection Order or charging document relating to the family violence that was issued during the tenancy.
“We anticipate that the options for qualifying evidence of family violence will be significantly broader in the regulations than currently provided for in guidance. “
For physical assault termination notices, the notice must attach at least one form of evidence that the Police filed an assault charge.
In the absence of regulations, examples of evidence could include:
- Police charging documents in respect of the assault
- written confirmation from police that charges for assault have been filed.
“We are working to have the regulations in place as soon as possible to provide clarity and ensure that the provisions operate in accordance with Parliament’s intentions. “
“In the meantime, the Tenancy Tribunal will continue to decide any matter before it based on the facts of the case, including tenancy disputes involving family violence or terminations for assault.”
New regulations expected to be in place early 2023
The new regulations are set to be drafted, approved and gazetted by December, and come into effect early 2023.
“Getting these regulations right for victims of family violence is important.”
However, we also appreciate that making these regulations has taken longer than we or the sector desired, and we acknowledge and understand any frustrations this delay has caused. “