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New law will help tenants make their homes safer for earthquakes

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) says a recent law change will make it easier for tenants to “quake-safe” their homes.

One of the changes in the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act specifies that landlords must not unreasonably withhold consent for a minor fixture, renovation, alteration, or addition to a rental property. The change will take effect from 11 February 2021.

Dr Jo Horrocks, EQC’s Chief Resilience and Research Officer, says this means that tenants now have greater surety around taking action to secure furniture and appliances against earthquake risk.

“We know from our research that many landlords are already happy to let their tenants secure items like bookcases to walls to make their home safer. However, these changes will help tenants who might have been having difficulty in getting approval for this type of work to be done,” she says.

“As a tenant, it can be more challenging to make sure the home you’re living in is as safe as it can be for natural disasters like earthquakes.  The new law will help tenants, landlords and property managers have good discussions about actions that can be taken to improve safety.”

Under the Act, tenants must return the premises to substantially the same condition it was in before changes were made.

EQC encourages tenants to particularly think about securing tall and heavy appliances and furniture, as these carry a greater risk of damage and injury. “Bookcases, sets of drawers, cabinets and hot water cylinders – these are all items that can be made much safer by adding brackets or straps that can be found at most hardware stores,” says Dr Horrocks. “We have some really helpful information on how to take these steps in the ‘Be Prepared’ section of our website.”

Dr Horrocks says it is also a good time for landlords to think about larger steps that will make their properties safer and stronger for tenants. “The last thing many landlords will want is a property that’s unliveable due to damage from a disaster,” says Dr Horrocks. “Actions such as removing or replacing hazardous chimney types and making sure foundation are in good condition and properly secured will mean that a property, and the people who live there, have a better chance of weathering the challenges presented when a disaster occurs.”

EQC information on securing tall and heavy furniture and appliances.

Be Prepared information for landlords, tenants and others.

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