Letting Fees - Now Defunct

From 12 December 2018 tenants can no longer be charged a letting fee. The legislation banning letting fees was passed in late October.

Many tenants paid their landlord a letting fee of a week's rent plus GST at the beginning of their tenancy. These letting fees cover the costs of the landlord's letting agent or lawyer in setting up the tenancy.

Whilst tenants will be pleased with this change, landlords have given the news a lukewarm response saying that the letting fee ban may lead to rent rises.

Workplace Culture Crackdown

The recent #metoo movement has drawn worldwide attention to workplace harassment. The New Zealand government has responded by collecting data about workplace harassment through confidential complaint lines and signalling clear expectations of New Zealand workplace culture.

Harassment may never be totally stamped out. However, your business can take steps to minimise harm and create a safer environment for your staff. These include:
• Implementing effective policies that set out your organisation's expectations regarding harassment and setting up procedures for dealing with complaints
• Ensuring that complaints are thoroughly investigated and treated seriously, and
• Creating an ongoing relationship of trust and confidence that helps to ensure your employees feel comfortable approaching their managers (or alternative representatives) about harassment.

If any business does not adjust and address harassment issues, it risks the possibility of adverse publicity and legal action in the form of personal grievances and/or human rights complaints.

There is now a great deal of information to help any organisation. Employment New Zealand's website is a good place to start.

The Commerce Commission has reinforced its position on extended warranties and consumer protection as shown by the recent charges brought against PB Technologies Ltd (PB Tech). PB Tech pleaded guilty to 14 charges brought by the Commission for shortcomings in its extended warranty agreements.

The Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 already provides consumers with protection when goods do not comply with any of the specified warranties. However, to encourage consumers to purchase, retailers sometimes offer extended warranties as add-ons.

When offering extended warranties, retailers must provide clear information explaining the benefits of the extended warranty – in addition to benefits already provided by the legislation. It is a legal requirement for retailers to provide customers with a summary of these benefits. They must also give customers a copy of the extended warranty and inform them of their cancellation rights should they choose to purchase an extended warranty.

PB Tech was also warned about their use of 'bait advertising' when they supposedly sent a newsletter advertising discounted Apple watches to about 100,000 people when they only had 14 watches available at that price. The Fair Trading Act 1986 prohibits misleading representations about goods or services, including their availability.

PB Tech were to be sentenced in September.

The Animal Welfare Act 1999 provides for offences and penalties for serious animal abuse or neglect.

In May 2015 the government amended the Animal Welfare Act enabling regulations to be made on matters such as animal care and procedures performed on animals.

The Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018 are the latest set of regulations to be issued; they were issued in March 2018. Most of these regulations will come into force in October this year. Examples include the prohibition of the use of traction in calving cows and the requirement to ensure that dogs transported on an open deck or trailer of a moving motor vehicle are secured to prevent the dog falling off or hanging off.

It's important you and staff are aware of the new scope of these regulations. Each regulation has an associated penalty. The penalty range is between $300–$25,000 and, for more serious matters, can result in a criminal conviction.

Full details of the regulations can be found here.

Overseas Investment Amendment Act 2018 now in force

The Overseas Investment Amendment Bill has become law and is now the Overseas Investment Amendment Act 2018 (the OIA Act). It has been in force since 22 October.

The implication for you is that when you next buy residential property, there will be another layer of compliance to be completed before your property purchase goes through. Read more…

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) adopted by the European Union (EU) came into effect on 25 May 2018 and applies globally. GDPR establishes a consistent set of requirements to protect EU citizens from privacy and data breaches. Any New Zealand entity that collects, uses or discloses personal information of EU citizens must comply with GDPR. Not complying could result in a fine of up to the greater of 4% of your organisation's global annual turnover or €20 million.

New Zealand situation: the Privacy Act 1993 controls how New Zealand-based agencies collect, use, store and disclose 'personal information'. The legislation implements a principles-based system administered and enforced by the Privacy Commissioner; there's more information on that here. A New Zealand-based entity could therefore be subject to both our own Privacy Act and GDPR. While there is significant overlap between GDPR and our own legislation, GDPR has a higher standard of compliance and more specific requirements.

As such, continuing with your Privacy Act compliance regime in relation to EU information is not likely to satisfy the GDPR requirements.

If you process EU information, we recommend you undertake a privacy review/impact assessment to ensure that your operations, policies and processes are compliant with the GDPR. There is more information and tools available here at the Privacy Commission.

Even if GDPR does not apply to you, this is a good opportunity to review your current operations, policies and processes.

Downie Stewart Lawyers Dunedin 8th Level, 265 Princes St, Dunedin, 9016 03-477 2263
PO Box 1345, Dunedin 9054 |  Fax: 03 477 4021  |  E: info@downiestewart.co.nz