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Does farm housing have to comply with the Residential Tenancies Act?

Offering accommodation for farm workers has many benefits. Not only does it help to keep good workers by giving them housing that they would otherwise have to commute to and from, but it can also reduce their living costs giving them more money in their pocket each week.

Historically many farmers believed that the housing they provide workers was exempt from the Residential Tenancies Act because many farmers operate these as service tenancies and therefore did not fall under the Residential Tenancies Act.

A service tenancy is where an employer provides an employee with a property to live in during their employment. But they have always been subject to many of the standard rules of the Residential Tenancies Act, with a few exceptions.

A service tenancy can have its rent deducted directly from an employees pay, something a standard tenancy obviously cannot do. There are also shorter notice periods for service tenancies when it comes to vacating a service tenancy property. Often the term of the engagement is linked to that employees period of employment. A landlord is able to give serviced tenancies at least 42 day's notice, rather than the more commonplace 90 day's seen in standard rental agreements.

Service tenancies still require a written rental agreement and the housing must meet the standard requirements for worker accommodation listed on Worksafe NZ's website. And before you ask, yes all of Genius Home's farm home houses comply with these guidelines.

Residential Tenancies Act and farm workers

All accommodation offered to farm workers (and any other employee accommodation) needs to have insulation that meets current regulations. They must also have no kitchen facilities in an area where the tenant sleeps.

Because farm housing falls under the same requirements as other residential rentals this means farm homes need to meet rigorous standards that may have previously been overlooked. This includes having up-to-date insulation statements, carpeting and drapes. If the batteries in the smoke alarms have run out you may need to be replacing those smoke alarms with a 10-year photoelectric system instead.

If the guidelines set out in the Residential Tenancies Act are not followed then you can be fined, and it's not as though dodging the investment required to comply with the act will end up saving you money in the future. If found to not comply through an inspection or by a complaint being raised you'll not only have to spend money rectifying the issues but you could face a $4,000 fine as well. The below is from Stu Henwood, president of Insulation Association of New Zealand.

"IAONZ is actively encouraging all landlords to commence installation insulation in rental properties now as demand will only continue to increase into 2018. MBIE have already stated there will be penalties of up to $4000 for landlords when the deadline for the new tenancy regulations kicks in."

Farm home

What can I do if I don't currently comply?

If your existing farm housing is of good quality and can be brought up to code then take the time and money to bring it up to scratch before the law comes into effect in July 2019. You can find guidance on what the Act contains online or you can seek independent legal advice on your obligations from a lawyer on what you need to do to comply.

If your farm house is beyond repair and the cost of bringing it up to standard is too high then you may find your best bet could be to look at affordable prefabricated farm housing designed for South Island farmers.

Because Genius Home's range of prefabricated houses are built in a factory and then delivered to your site you won't have builders disrupting operations for weeks and you won't have cost-overruns due to weather delays. In fact, because your house is being built in a factory come rain or shine work can continue.

Get ahead of the Act and check out our range of suitable, affordable farm homes by clicking the image below.

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