Key Points:

Landlords will face tougher sanctions - including $3000 in damages for failing to maintain rental properties properly - under a raft of changes to tenancy laws.

Building Minister Shane Jones yesterday introduced a bill to change the Residential Tenancies Act, saying the revamp of the law was needed because of the growth of the rental market.

The changes make it an "unlawful" act for which the Tenancy Tribunal can order landlords to pay up to $3000 in damages if they do not meet their obligations to keep a rental property safely maintained and compliant with health and safety requirements.

Charging "letting fees" - the one-off fee charged by some rental managers to new tenants - will also be prohibited.

Tenants also face a raft of new sanctions, including $2000 for harassing other tenants or neighbours and $1000 for acts such as sub-letting the property without permission or allowing too many people to live in it.

However, tenants can have their liability for damage done to a property restricted to four weeks' rent, unless it was intentional or reckless.


The law change also extends the reach of the act to include boarding houses with more than five tenants, and other rental accommodation where meals and cleaning are provided, such as some retirement homes.

NZ Property Investors' Federation chief executive Martin Evans said the federation opposed the legislation that restricted the liability of tenants for damage to four weeks. He said it was not enough to replace interior items such as carpets and curtains.

"This does not send the right message to tenants and merely passes responsibility of looking after the property from the tenant to the landlord," Mr Evans said.

But the federation supported much of the other legislation, including introducing charges for sub-letting, over-populating and becoming a problem neighbour.

"Landlords seek tenancy legislation which is balanced and commonsense law," Mr Evans said. "Currently the RTA is skewed and has an anti-landlord bias."