Two new pieces of legislation will affect the way landlords and
tenants view their responsibilities for strengthening buildings and
for ensuring they provide a safe place of work.
The Building (Earthquake-Prone Buildings) Amendment Bill (EPB
Bill) will establish timeframes within which building owners must
assess and then either strengthen or demolish buildings identified
The Health and Safety Reform Bill (H&S Bill) will impose
health and safety duties on a greater number of people and
companies than at present, with greater penalties for failing to
The H&S Bill introduces a new concept, a Person in Control
of a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), who has a duty to ensure the
safety of its employees and contractors, as well as people affected
by the work being performed by the PCBU.
The definition of PCBU is likely to capture landlords, as a
landlord controls a business or undertaking, the work of which is
leasing premises. The Landlord will therefore owe a duty to
its tenants and their employees, as people affected by the
landlord's work (being the leasing of premises).
So how does this interplay with the EPB Bill? WorkSafe New
Zealand, the health and safety regulator, has issued a position
statement on earthquake-prone buildings. In the statement
WorkSafe says it will not take enforcement action against a
building owner that is complying with its strengthening obligations
under the current Building Act. However, it also says that
tenants with concerns that building components may be a hazard
should involve their landlord, who in turn should be responsive to
issues raised by tenants.
In practice, if tenants are concerned about the fact that the
building they occupy is earthquake-prone, they should write to
their landlord asking it to take steps to eliminate or minimise the
hazard, by undertaking strengthening works.
For landlords, the obligation under the EPB Bill is to ensure
that strengthening works are carried out to the level and within
the timeframes specified. Under the H&S Bill, a landlord
is required to take reasonably practicable steps to eliminate or
minimise the hazard. Given that strengthening work will come
at considerable expense and cause significant disruption, it is
highly unlikely to be reasonably practicable to immediately embark
on such work. Indeed, this is the reason the government has
allowed time for such work to be undertaken. Instead, landlords
should plan and budget for strengthening work to be undertaken to
address the hazard as soon as is reasonably practicable.