The new amendment to the Residential Tenancies Act clarifies the situation relating to Methamphetamine (Meth). This aims to:
- Protect landlords and tenants from the harmful effects of Methamphetamine
- Provide landlords with a specific right of entry to do a test with 48 hours’ notice
- Contain new powers to make regulations governing guidelines for:
- Maximum acceptable levels of Meth for habitability
- Make it an unlawful act to rent out a contaminated dwelling in excess of new habitability standards.
A landlord can terminate a tenancy in a case of Methamphetamine contamination. This means that after testing has been carried out the presence of Meth is found to be above the new habitable guidelines. If the tenant is not responsible for creating contamination then rent abates*. You may think that the tenant is responsible but this needs to be proven.
* Note – abates means that rent reduces in accordance with the facilities provided eg. if one bedroom in a three-bed house is contaminated the rent could be reduced to that of a two-bedroom property.
When a 7-day notice is served the landlord has an obligation to provide accommodation during the notice period if the property is deemed uninhabitable.
Landlords commit an unlawful act if premises are contaminated at start of tenancy and they knowingly rent out the dwelling.
Courts won’t accept DIY tests. The Tenancy Tribunal will expect official results from a lab.
The new habitable standard for residential rentals is 1.5 for a high use area and 3.8 for limited use areas (roof and under house etc). The new standard takes an area-by-area approach which differs from the current basis that impacts on the whole dwelling. This will substantially reduce the costs of remediation.
The notice period is now stipulated at 48 hours, which tries to balance the tenant’s right to privacy and the landlord’s right to enter a property.
When a test is conducted by a landlord the results need to be disclosed. The same obligation should apply should Tenants initiate the test.
Where a test result is above the guidelines it is best practice to advise the Police.
Tenants are liable not only for what they cause themselves but also for what they permit to go on at the premises.
If a property is found to be contaminated during a tenancy, previous cases have seen a portion of rent given back to the tenant.
The changes provide clarity for industry and the cost of remediation should be reduced.