Property (Relationships) Act 1976 changes proposed

For better, for worse?

The law governing the division of property when a relationship ends is, after more than 40 years, set to change following the Law Commission’s comprehensive review of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (the PRA).

The Law Commission has identified changes that it believes should be made to ensure the regime better reflects the reasonable expectations of New Zealanders. We set out some of the proposals that may be relevant to you or your family.

divorce

The family home

Under the current law, in a marriage, civil union or de facto relationship of more than three years, the family home is automatically considered to be relationship property and subject to equal sharing. Under the changes proposed, the family home will not necessarily be shared 50/50, particularly if one partner owned it before the start of the relationship. In that situation, it is proposed that only the increase in value would be subject to equal sharing.

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Wiping the slate clean

The seven year itch

The Clean Slate Act or clean slate scheme, more formally and correctly known as the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004, became law almost 15 years ago. The rationale behind the legislation was to enable people who had certain convictions to put their past behind them without the stigma of a permanent conviction. Having a criminal record can have far-reaching consequences for employment, immigration, voluntary work and various other matters.

What the legislation means

The Clean Slate Act limits the effect of convictions if certain criteria are satisfied. If it has been seven years since you were convicted, you will be considered to have no criminal record and can state this to anyone who asks.

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Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman

Getting help when you have difficulties with your insurer or financial services provider

The Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman office (IFSO) was established in 1995 to help consumers who were in dispute with their insurers or financial services providers.

The IFSO[1] is a free, independent entity to which you can lodge a complaint regarding the conduct and decisions of insurance and financial services providers, once you have exhausted that provider’s internal complaints procedures.

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Over the fence

Minimum wage review 2019

The government reviews the minimum wage each year.

On 1 April 2019 the adult minimum wage will increase from $16.50/hour to $17.70/hour. The starting out and training minimum wage will increase from $13.20/hour to $14.16/hour. The government has also set indicative rates of $18.90/hour from 1 April 2020 and to $20.00/hour from 1 April 2021. These rates will be subject to each year’s annual review.

minimum

We recommend you review all wage and salary structures to ensure your employees are paid at least the minimum wage at all times for hours worked.

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National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry

Review due in May

The National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) were first proposed in 2010. Following a period of consultation, the Standards came into effect on 1 May 2018, with a review due in 12 months after that (May 2019) to ascertain whether or not they are being successfully implemented.

Forestry

Ironically, the NES-PF came into effect a month before torrential rain north of Gisborne in the Tolaga Bay area in June 2018. This storm caused flooding which led to tonnes of forestry debris being strewn across farms and blocking rivers. The cleanup was expected to cost around $10 million and to take up to a year to complete. The cost and responsibility for this cleanup is still being determined.

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Tenure review of Crown pastoral land to end

What is the government proposing?

The Minister for Land Information, the Hon Eugenie Sage, announced on 17 February this year that the ‘tenure review’ of Crown pastoral land under the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 (CPLA) would end. She introduced a discussion document entitled ‘Enduring Stewardship of Crown Pastoral Land’ that sets out a number of proposals in relation to Crown pastoral land. Public feedback is sought on:

  • The implications of ending the tenure review
  • The outcomes the Crown is seeking for Crown pastoral land, and
  • What changes should be made to the Crown Pastoral Land regulatory system to achieve those outcomes.

Submissions should be made by 5pm on Friday 12 April 2019.

Background

There are 171 remaining Crown pastoral lease properties covering approximately 1.2 million hectares of Crown pastoral land.

Crown Pastoral Land

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The bank of mum and dad

Helping your children – with care

Contributions by family members to the purchase of a property and how this is recorded can affect property ownership. We discuss how you can help your children and, at the same time, lessen the risks to you as parents.

mortgage

New Zealand houses have never been more unaffordable: in the 1950s to 1980s a house cost two to three times the average household income. In the 1990s it was four times the average, and by the 2000s it was up to six times the average household income. When you add in the fact that households are now far more likely to have two incomes (compared with the single income norm of the 1950s), housing looks even less affordable.

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No enduring power of attorney?

It’s a time-consuming and expensive process if you don’t have an EPA

Most people are now aware of the importance of having an enduring power of attorney (EPA). If you are unable to make decisions for yourself at any stage (either temporarily or longer term) it is important there is someone in place to act on your behalf. What happens to you, and your family situation, if you have no EPA?

epa

Ensuring you have EPAs (for property and for your health and welfare) is a very important part of keeping your personal affairs in order. An EPA can be used if you are out of the country for a long time and you need someone to keep an eye on your financial affairs, or if you become mentally incapacitated and cannot look after your property or yourself.

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Accessing the assets of a trust

What the future may hold for separating couples with a trust

When a marriage, civil union or de facto relationship breaks down, the couple will usually divide their property according to the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (the PRA). However, these two people often hold property in a trust rather than personally.

The PRA has limited remedies to access property which has been put in a trust, and this can result in unfairness when a couple separates if there are no assets that they own personally.

The Law Commission has undertaken a review of the PRA and proposed that the legislation be changed to make it easier to access trust property when a couple separates.

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Business briefs

Directors have personal liability for company debt in liquidation

A recent decision in the Court of Appeal[1] has made a director liable for almost $500,000 of company debt due to the company’s failure to keep adequate accounting records. The decision highlights the importance for directors to understand their duties under the Companies Act 1993. The Act requires directors to ensure that the company keeps proper financial records.

If you are a director and fail to keep adequate accounting records, and the company is unable to pay its debts in liquidation, then the court can make you personally liable if the failure has resulted in:

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