Urgency used to hide unworkable tenancy law changes

Jacinda Ardern’s “kind” government rather unkindly wants to push through under urgency this week amendments to residential rental tenancy law that are both unworkable and vicious, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today.

If the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill is passed as is:

  1. Section 55A would allow two weeks of unpaid rent every 90 days. This breaches every tenancy agreement which requires rent to be paid as agreed.
  2. Section 36 would permit two separate instances of anti-social behaviour every 90 days. This also breaches every tenancy agreement which forbids anti-social behaviour.
  3. Section 32, which would end contractual terminations by owners, means that the only ways for owners to end tenancies are to renovate, move into, or sell the property.
  4. When considering termination for a serious breach, Tenancy Tribunal adjudicators would be legally obliged to put the personal circumstances of a tenant above the rights of the owner and neighbours, and above fairness and acceptable behaviour.
  5. Schedule 2 would impose massive fines that are far from fair and reasonable. Seventy three of the 87 proposed penalties target owners

The current Government appears to believe that it can fix housing problems by tinkering with the law. The Government appears not to understand that high demand and the diminishing availability of rental property is the problem.

Bear in mind, the current government failed to produce the 30,000 affordable houses in three years that it promised at the last election.

Winston Peters should show that there is at least one adult in this rickety coalition government and help the National Party and Act vote against these unworkable and vicious amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act.

Stop the War on Tenancies is a group that since October 2018 has been highlighting the failure by the Government to create sound policy and law for residential rental property. Much policy has only increased rents and disadvantaged both tenants and owners.

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

 

Contact

Mike Butler

(027) 2777 295

info@tenancieswar.nz

Will the Nats correct Labour’s rental property errors?

Will the National Party under Judith Collins vote against Labour’s flawed proposed amendments to residential rental tenancy law and correct the rules and penalties to do with rental property standards, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler asked today.

The Labour-led Government is trying to push through changes to the Residential Tenancies Act which would mean that:

  1. Rent arrears debts will become larger, and will take longer and become more difficult to resolve.
  2. Noisy, disruptive behaviour becomes much more difficult to manage, creating a problem for owners and neighbours.
  3. Owners won’t be able to end a tenancy except by selling it or moving into the property.

“Will Ms Collins make a commitment that the National Party would vote against residential tenancy law changes when the bill returns to Parliament after scrutiny by the Social Services and Community Select Committee,” Mr Butler asked.

“In addition, would a National-led government revisit the so-called healthy homes regulations that have turned the business of renting into a nightmare of costly compliance,” he asked.

“Seventy three of the 87 proposed penalties target owners and the fine for owners for not complying with the healthy homes standards is $7200,” Mr Butler said.

“Standards are fine but the requirement to re-insulate beyond that required in 2016 is all cost and little benefit and the heating assessment tool (on the Tenancy Services website) is flawed,” he said.

“The whopping fines and the unnecessary extra insulation should be dropped, the heating tool should be amended to correct its flaws, and the standards should be recommendations rather than punishable rules,” Mr Butler said.

“The proposed amendments to tenancy law plus the Draconian penalties linked to housing standards are driving many residential rental property owners to sell,” he said.

“Labour policies are reducing the supply of rental property at a time when tens of thousands are looking for a home to rent,” Mr Butler said.

“New Zealand’s 290,000 rental property owners need to know where the National Party stands as we prepare to vote on September 19,” he said.

Stop the War on Tenancies is a group that since October 2018 has been highlighting the failure by the Government to create sound policy and law for residential rental property. Much policy has only increased rents and disadvantaged both tenants and owners.

Will Level 1 mean Level 1 for residential landlords?

Does a move to Covid-19 Level 1, that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Cabinet are considering tomorrow (Monday, June 8), mean back-to-normal for 290,000 rental property owners and managers, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today.

The Covid-19 Response (Urgent Management) Act, that went through Parliament and was given Royal Assent in a single day, being May 25, 2020, intended to “put in place the necessary arrangements in order to implement COVID-19 Alert Level 4”.

Schedule 5 of this Act spells out the Draconian measures that froze or changed rental property processes to do with unpaid rent and tenancy terminations for three months. These include measures that mean:

  1. Tenants can stop paying rent for 60 days before any consequences. This is up from 21 days.
  2. Owners face a fine of $6500 if they give notice or apply to terminate a tenancy.
  3. Tenants may stay in a property despite having given notice and without regard to the rights of a new tenant who has signed an agreement to rent the property.

There is an option to extend the freeze for a further three months, which goes to after the election.

We are now in Level 2 and will soon be in Level 1. If the rental property provisions of the Act were set up for Level 4, and since we are no longer under those restrictions, surely the rental property provisions of the Act are already redundant, Mr Butler said.

These harsh, anti-landlord measures appear to have nothing to do with Covid-19 and everything to do with the current Government implementing its amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act without having to get them through Parliament, he said.

This affront to democracy rides roughshod over the rights of New Zealand’s rental property owners, many of whom are leaving the sector, he said.

This exodus is happening at a time when the waiting list for a State house has soared to 16,309 (more than double that of 2017), and when the Government failed to deliver on its promise to build 30,000 affordable homes in three years.

Below are news stories on unintended consequences of the Covid-19 Response (Urgent Management) Act and how some coped with the authoritarian crackdown on residential rental property.

No data is available on how owners had to sneak around dealing with tenancy issues during the Level 4 lockdown at a time that housing was deemed non-essential and rental property owners were locked down and unable to perform basic functions legally.

Neither is there any data on the extent of additional rent arrears incurred during the Government’s Covid-19 panic, or how owners tried to defuse anti-social behaviour knowing that authorities would only deal with an extreme consequence, such as the boarding house murder (See below).

Tomorrow, Cabinet should tell New Zealand’s 290,000 rental property owners and managers that the rules that apply to rental property will be those of the Residential Tenancies Act without the now redundant Schedule 5 of the Covid-19 Response (Urgent Management) Act, Mr Butler said.

If New Zealand is safe enough to return to Level 1, it goes without saying that should be no extension of the freeze on rental property processes for a further three months to September 25, which is after the election, he said.

Would Muller fix Labour’s rental property failures?

Since any promises made by former National Party leader Simon Bridges are effectively void, the new leader, Todd Muller, should tell New Zealand’s 290,000 residential rental property owners whether he supports Labour disastrous experiments or whether he intends to restore some sanity to the sector.

Currently, the sector remains frozen under the Covid-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Act which over-rode previous tenancy termination agreements, extended the period of allowed unpaid rent from 21 days to 60 days, and imposed a $6500 fine on any owners who put a step wrong.

During the lockdown, the Government continued pushing through changes to the Residential Tenancies Act that:

  1. Require 118 days of unpaid rent before the Tenancy Tribunal may end a tenancy because of unpaid rent. Currently, 21 days’ arrears are sufficient to end a tenancy.
  2. Require three disturbances in three months before the Tenancy Tribunal could end a tenancy because of anti-social behaviour.
  3. Remove a property owner’s contractual right to end a tenancy – the so-called 90-day no-reason termination.

Rental property owners would like to know whether, before the election, a National Party under Mr Muller vote against those amendments.

We are not the only group to say that the current Government’s housing policies have been a rolling maul of incompetence.

  1. KiwiBuild promised 100,000 new homes in a decade yet in three years was only able to deliver 1535 houses.
  2. The waiting list for state houses reached a whopping 16,309 applicants by March 31 this year, more than double the number when the coalition government was formed in 2017.
  3. Changed tax rules hit on March 31 this year. This ring-fencing of rental property losses will tip up to 116,000 negatively geared owners out of the sector, according to documents obtained under the Official Information Act.
  4. Expensive and poorly conceived regulations on rental properties presented as guaranteeing a “healthy home” brought a regime of spot checks, narking, and massive fines on owners. This will drive more out of the sector once they take effect in the middle of next year.

If Mr Muller becomes Prime Minister, would he:

  1. Work with the private sector to build homes.
  2. Work with rather than against rental property owners to increase the supply of housing.
  3. Revisit the so-called “healthy homes” regulations as his predecessor promised. They should be changed from punitive regulations to recommendations and widened to include other methods to reach the recommended goals (such as shower domes instead of extractor fans). Standards for housing are nothing new and have existed here since 1947 under the Housing Improvement Regulations.

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.

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