Housing Workers – Landlord Obligation

Providing Accommodation to Farm Workers

With New Zealand starting the process of loosening its border restrictions, foreign workers will soon be entering the country again, this means that now is a good time to consider your responsibilities around housing workers on the farm.

Service Tenancies

Generally, the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (“the Act”) applies to any right to occupy a premises for residential purposes in consideration for rent and includes service tenancies.

A service tenancy is a tenancy granted to an employee or contractor as part of their employment or contract agreement. There need not be a separate tenancy agreement or any rent or monies payable by the tenant for a service tenancy to exist.

So, if there is a service tenancy, what does this mean for you?

  1. you are a landlord and an employer you must have a tenancy agreement in place in addition to employment / services agreements. Tenancy agreements must meet the minimum requirements of the Act. A good starting point is the standard form available from Tenancy Services, but in some cases it will pay to have this reviewed by a solicitor before presenting it to your tenant, and in certain scenarios a more bespoke tenancy agreement may be called for;
  2. the Act sets out the requirements relating to the payment of rent, and includes requirements such as the landlord obtaining the tenant’s agreement to deduct the rent payable from the tenant’s pay; and
  3. in most cases the landlord is required to give the tenant 90 days’ written notice to end the tenancy. However, this does not apply to Service Tenancies. In that case, the landlord generally must give 14 days’ written notice, except in certain circumstances where the landlord may give a shorter notice period.

Healthy Homes

We are rapidly approaching a year since the Residential Tenancies (Healthy Homes Standards) Regulations 2019  (“the Regulations”) came into force.

The Regulations prescribe minimum standards that premises must meet in order to comply with the Act. Failure to provide healthy homes information can lead to fines and damages being payable.

The minimum standards prescribed by the Regulations relate to:

  1. Heating – Main living room must have qualifying heaters;
  2. Insulation – Ceiling and underfloor insulation;
  3. Ventilation – Openable windows or external doors and extractor fans for kitchens and bathrooms;
  4. Draught Stopping – Open fireplaces to be blocked and premises to be free from gaps and holes that allow draughts; and
  5. Moisture ingress and drainage – buildings must have efficient drainage and suspended floors must have a ground moisture barrier.

There are specific exemptions to each of these requirements. There are also more general exemptions, for example:

  1. If the tenant is the former owner; and
  2. If the premises is due to be demolished or substantially rebuilt.

It is also worth noting the Residential Tenancies (Smoke Alarms and Insulation) Regulations 2016 which requires the premises to have smoke alarms in the sleeping space(s), withing 3 metres of the entrance to sleeping spaces, and in the habitable spaces.

Conclusion

While complying with all your responsibilities around housing workers on the farm at times can appear overwhelming and like just more red tape to deal with, in our experience it is better to front foot these issues rather than ending up at the tenancy tribunal with a bigger headache.

Talk to us

If you would like more in-depth advice or further information about the content of this article, please get in touch with the team at Pitt & Moore on 03 5488349, and ask to speak with Ralph Shaw, Solicitor.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice. It is important that you seek legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.

Topics: All Select

Ralph Shaw

Position: Solicitor
Email: ralph.shaw@pittandmoore.co.nz
DDI: 03 545 6712