Happy New Laws!

Welcome back to work everyone, and a happy new year.  It’s all too often the case that we all return to work fresh and ready to roll, but realise quickly that very little has changed.  The folders you left spread all over the desk remain in the same place and you still haven’t won the lotto.  Despite this perception more has changed than just the last digit in the date (P.S – you will continue to write last year’s date until at least March!). 

We have a look below at some changes to various laws that will come into effect in 2019.  Unfortunately no one has cottoned onto the idea yet that for every new law an old one should be repealed.  Things continue to get yet more complex.

The first change relates to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010.  This Act has received an extensive review with an amendment bill being passed last year.  Changes include imposing seven minimum standards on a building at the start of tenancy in order for it to be considered fit for habitation. Fair Trading will have new powers to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants including issuing rectification orders, prohibiting more than one rent rise every 12 months, and setting mandatory set fees for breaking a lease early.

One particularly interesting, and worthwhile, change is to introduce measures for victims of domestic violence.  These will mean that a tenant who needs to escape circumstances of domestic violence will be able to do so without penalty and immediately.  The tenant will be able to issue a domestic violence termination notice and will be able to rely on things such as an AVO, family law injunction or certificate of conviction for a domestic violence offence.  It will be interesting to see how this operates in practice.

The second area where we will see some changes in 2019 is for drink driving offences.  Currently when caught with a low range prescribed concentration of alcohol a Court Attendance Notice is issued, the accused attends Court a month or six weeks in the future, but in the interim keeps driving. 

The law will change such that a low range PCA will be issued with an on the spot fine of $561 and their licence will be immediately suspended for 3 months.  There will also be a change for mid-range offenders who for the first time will be forced to have an interlock device in their vehicle for the first offence.  Previously this had only be mandatory for a second offence in a five year period.

The last change we will discuss is yet more alterations to the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act.  This piece of legislation is intended to make cash flow easier for subcontractors, and in our view is greatly under used and misunderstood.  It applies despite what is stated in a contract, and therefore can override some important terms.

The Act is somewhat fiddly and probably worth a column all of its own, but for those who have a passing familiarity there are a couple of interesting changes.  The Act now mandates that a subcontractor must be paid monies due to it no later than 20 business days (down from 30).  The requirement for a claim under the Act to state that it is made under the Act has been put back in – this had been taken out for some time and we aren’t sure that this change will be beneficial. 

Perhaps the change that will help the most is the removal of the concept of “reference date”.  Now a claim will be able to made “on and from” the last date of the month.  It is hoped that this will avoid some of the more technical arguments about whether or not a payment claim is due, meaning that the parties can focus on the amounts that are actually due and owing.

We wish you all a happy and prosperous 2019.  With any luck you won’t come across these areas, but if you do hopefully this quick update will give you a little bit to go on.