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Tenancy Law and Farm Landlords

Are you a farm owner providing accommodation to employees? Many farmers don’t realise they are legally obligated to comply with the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. In this blog, we recap the rules and what you need to do to be compliant.

If you’re a farm owner offering employee accommodation, you probably don’t even think of yourself as a landlord.

But, in the eyes of the law, you are considered a landlord if you have one or several houses on your farm or business headquarters that are rented by staff or private tenants.

'Renting' can include payment-in-kind, so even if you don't take a rent payment directly from them you can still be classed as a landlord.

The Residential Tenancies Act has seen a series of changes rolled out between 2019-2021. Avoid landlord overwhelm and non-compliance, by becoming familiar with the key rules. These include:  

1.     You must provide the premises in a reasonable state of cleanliness

2.     You must ensure smoke alarms are installed in the property

3.     You must comply with the Healthy Homes Standards

Health Homes Standards

There are quite a few complexities to the Healthy Home Standards, setting out minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture, drainage and draughts. Excerpts have been taken from the tenancies website to explain the rules.

1. Heating

Landlords must provide one or more fixed heaters that can directly heat the main living room. The heater(s) must be acceptable types; either a heat pump in the living room, a heater that supplies heat directly into the living room (through a duct or vent) or an electric heater fixed to the property. Heaters must meet the minimum heating capacity required for your main living room, with a thermostat and a heating capacity of 1.5 kW. 

2. Insulation

Ceiling and underfloor insulation has been compulsory in all rental homes since 1 July 2019. The healthy homes insulation standard builds on the current regulations and some existing insulation will need to be topped up or replaced. In most situations, existing ceiling insulation needs to be at least 120mm thick. If ceiling insulation needs to be topped up, it needs to meet minimum R-values* for ceiling insulation as set out in the 2008 Building Code. Underfloor insulation needs a minimum R-value of 1.3.

3. Ventilation

Rental homes must have openable windows or doors or a skylight in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. They must open to the outside and can be fixed in the open position. In each room, the size of the openable windows, doors and skylights together must be at least 5% of the floor area of that room. Kitchens and bathrooms must have extractor fans, vented to the outside.

4. Draughts and Open Fireplaces

Landlords must make sure the property doesn’t have unreasonable gaps or holes in walls, ceilings, windows, skylights, floors and doors which cause noticeable draughts. All unused open fireplaces must be closed off or their chimneys must be blocked to prevent draughts (unless the tenant requests the use of the fireplace).

5. Drainage

Rental properties must have efficient drainage for the removal of storm water, surface water and ground water. Rental properties with an enclosed sub-floor space must have a ground moisture barrier.

What should you do?

If you’re a farm landlord providing staff accommodation, you need to ensure you include information regarding the Healthy Homes Standards in your Tenancy Agreements.

If you have current tenancies in place, make sure you review your agreements and your properties to ensure they comply with these rules.

If in doubt, seek professional help from your property lawyer or a residential property manager / real estate rental agent or similar, to ensure you don’t get caught out.

Need some legal advice?

Get in touch with the team at Brent Kelly Law for expert legal advice on property, subdivisions and any other legal matters. 

Call: 07 871 7878