About 18 years ago my wife and I started worrying that we weren’t saving enough for our retirement. After reading some books about investment properties, we decided to take a gamble and take on some rental properties in locations close to our home.
Over 18 years, we purchased 9 properties in Manurewa and Takanini, renting these out to families and couples. We manage the properties. We get to know our tenants very well and have been pleased to see several of them move on to buy their own homes. Five of our properties have had the same tenants for more than five years with one couple having been with us for more than 15 years. Through the years we have spent many weekends cleaning, painting, landscaping and doing general maintenance while tenants are in place or between tenancies.
Our properties are two and three bedroom “Universal” type homes, Hardiplank or brick with Decramastic roofs, about 30 years old. Our current rents are $360 to $450 per week, our total income in rents is just enough to cover mortgage repayments, rates, insurance and some minor maintenance.
When it comes to paying for big ticket items, like new stoves, carpets, fencing and kitchen rebuilds, we pay for these out of our own savings from our day jobs. We have had security window catches fitted on all of our properties, so that they can be safely ventilated. Our tenants seem very happy living in our affordable, warm dry homes in South Auckland.
Our homes were all insulated when constructed with 75mm to 100mm blown cellulose fibre (recycled paper). This is globally recognised as an eco-option that is highly effective, with R value of 2.6 per 100 mm thickness, just fractionally under the new level required which is R2.9 for ceiling insulation in Auckland.
They all also had foil underfloor insulation where possible, which provides suitable R value insulation but is no longer in favour due to potential electrical short issues. The new government “healthy homes” legislation requires that ceiling insulation is at least 120mm thick, meaning that all of our previously compliant homes needed reinsulating. We had to sell one of our homes so that we could remedy the rest, which cost between $2400 and $3700 per house.
To add insult, we are told that we are not allowed to claim the cost of this work as an expense against our income. This beggars belief! Clearly the additional expense is only incurred because we are in the business of renting homes. This government mandated expenditure for a small change in insulation value is an unavoidable cost of being in the business of renting, so must surely be deductible? The additional work only provides minimal extra insulation and doesn’t increase the value or resale ability of the properties; to my way of thinking achieves very little for the $24k that we have spent.
Recently we were contacted by MBIE demanding that we send a copy of our Tenancy Agreement and of our Insulation Statement for a recently tenanted property. We were threatened with significant fines if we couldn’t comply, we sent through our documentation and received terse critique of the same with further threats of fines.
We are now facing more costs with the need to install kitchen and bathroom ventilation in addition to significant capacity fixed heating into our already warm, dry safe houses. The cost of this is estimated at $6k to $8k per house, we’ll need to sell another house to fund these upgrades. We have less than two years to get this work done for what will be our seven remaining homes with their 20 – 25 Year mortgages.
If 60 percent of Aucklanders are living in rental accommodation, then it follows that they all have to rent from someone. While undoubtedly there are some landlords who break the rules and take advantage of vulnerable people, we suggest that the vast majority of landlords are simply hard-working members of the community trying to save for their retirements and for their families.
The almost daily landlord-bashing stories in the news media leaves us feeling like the scourge of society, the ongoing interference in our relationships with our tenants is pushing us to sell all of our properties and get out of the business. Our existing tenants can’t afford to buy their own homes, where will they live once we exit the market?