New Zealand’s 290,000 rental property owners should resist radical changes to the Residential Tenancies Act both by submission and by vote in this year’s election, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today.

The current government has the despicable habit of treating some groups of New Zealanders as pariahs. Rental property owners join gun owners and farmers as groups scapegoated for political gain, Mr Butler said.

The main changes that the Government wants are to:

  • Remove a rental property owner’s contractual right to end a tenancy. Currently this may be done by issuing a 90-day notice that requires no reason to be stated.
  • Extend the current 21 days rent arrears as grounds to end a tenancy to at least 90 days.
  • Allow two instances of anti-social behaviour every 90 days with the third such instance being grounds to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to end the tenancy but only 28 days after the third notice has been given.
  • Nullify any clause in a tenancy agreement prohibiting assignment of the tenancy by a tenant.
  • Mandate that fixed-term tenancy agreements must become periodic tenancy agreements upon expiry unless both parties agree otherwise.
  • Allow for identifying details to be blacked out in Tenancy Tribunal applications where a party has been successful.
  • Ensure that tenants can add minor changes that can be removed at the end of the tenancy and the property restored to its original condition.
  • Prohibit the solicitation of rental bids by landlords.
  • Limit rent increases to once every 12 months.
  • Require owners to permit and facilitate the installation of ultra-fast broadband.

The Government thinks it can allay concerns by allowing an owner to ask the Tenancy Tribunal to end a tenancy if the tenant has been behind in rent or there were instances of anti-social behaviour on three occasions within 90 days.

It is unclear whether an owner must wait 90 days before approaching the tribunal for help over three weeks of unpaid rent or for the resolution of anti-social behaviour that could have occurred in the first month of a tenancy.

“The fact that social housing providers, which includes the Government as the main provider, have exemptions shows that those who drafted this bill know that the changes are unworkable,” Mr Butler said.

“Nearly all 75 clauses have been amended by adding a financial penalty and pointer to the table of penalties and fees,” Mr Butler said.

Only 14 of the 64 unlawful act penalties listed are for failures by tenants. None of the 23 infringements are actions by tenants. This shows a heavy bias against property owners, Mr Butler said.

For instance, there is no penalty for failure to pay rent which is the issue that takes up 72 percent of Tenancy Tribunal time.

The biggest penalty is $7200 for any owner failing to meet obligations in respect of cleanliness, maintenance, smoke alarms, the healthy homes standards, or buildings, health, and safety requirements. There is no obligation on tenants for cleanliness or safety.

While all rental property owners are targeted, the bill singles out those with six or more properties, regards properties owned related parties as the targeted owner’s properties, and doubles the penalties for any infringements by this group.

Will the changes encourage more to provide properties for rent? Probably not. Will some sell? Probably. Will there be fewer rental properties? Probably. Will rents continue to increase? Yes.

“A raft of anti-landlord measures by the current government has turned a housing shortage into a crisis and these proposed changes to law will embed the crisis for years,” Mr Butler said.

The bill may be read here: http://legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2020/0218/latest/LMS294929.html

Submissions close at midnight on March 25. Go here to make your submission. https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/sc/make-a-submission/document/52SCSS_SCF_BILL_94841/residential-tenancies-amendment-bill

If this bill passes into law, you could show your disgust by voting against those political parties that support this heavily ideological and biased piece of legislation, Mr Butler said.

Labour, Greens and NZ First supported the bill through the first reading on February 20.

Stop the War on Tenancies is a group that since October 2018 has been highlighting the failures of successive governments while creating rental property policy and law.