Damage, meth tinkering tangles tenancy law

Political meddling with the Residential Tenancies Act regarding damage to rental properties, meth contamination, and living in garages, has just made tenancy law more complex and litigious, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today

Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (No 2), which seeks to address issues related to liability for damage, methamphetamine contamination, and living in garages, passed its third reading on Wednesday. The bill:

  1. Makes tenants liable for careless damage up to four weeks of rent or their landlord’s insurance excess, whichever is lower.
  2. Extends the definition of “residential premises” to ensure that all premises which are used or intended to be used for residential occupation are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act,
  3. Provides yet another regime to address any health risks of any harmful substance in rental properties, including methamphetamine.
  4. Enables tenancies where contamination has been established to be terminated in two days.

“The architect of this bill, Nick Smith, and the current Minister responsible, Kris Faafoi, should explain how limiting a tenant’s liability for accidental destruction of, let’s say, a $500,000 house, to four week’s rent, is either fair or just,” Mr Butler said.

Tenancy Tribunal hearings concerning damage will become more complex and many more cases will be appealed through the court system, as you can see from the following clause that says:

(a) it is for the landlord to prove—
(i) that any damage is not fair wear and tear; and
(ii) that any destruction or damage occurred in circumstances described in subsection (1)(b); and
(iii) that any insurance moneys are irrecoverable for the reasons described in subsection (3A)(a); and
(b) it is for the tenant to prove—
(i) that any destruction or damage was not intentionally done or caused as described in subsection (1)(a); and
(ii) that any destruction or damage was not caused by a careless act or omission described in subsection (2).

“Moreover, the bill fails to address a substantial legal anomaly in that people who wilfully damage rental property manage to escape the consequences of a wilful damage conviction under the Crime Act, which carries a jail term of seven years,” he said.

“Regarding contaminants, the issue of evidence of harm has been avoided, and the bill assumes that current level of 15 millionths of a gram per 100 square centimetres is a meaningful indicator of harm, which it is not,” Mr Butler said.

“The bill should have simply stated that the onus was on anyone claiming harm from a contaminated tenancy to provide evidence of harm,” Mr Butler said.

Treating garages as residential premises to extend coverage of the RTA to them so that they confirmed as non-residential is the sort of thing that gives rise to the expression “the law is an ass”, he said.

“This bill, that seeks to clean up messes created by the Tenancy Tribunal, the Court of Appeal, and the previous Government, has just made the issues more unfair and complex and litigious,” Mr Butler said.

Stop the War on Tenancies is a group that since last October has been highlighting the evidence that successive governments have ignored while creating rental property policy and law.

Loss ring-fencing ups war on renters and owners

The largely unreported end of the ability of rental property owners to claim losses against other income shows that the Government is unaware of the scale of the problem it is creating with accommodation, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today

The Taxation (Annual Rates for 2019–20, GST Offshore Supplier Registration, and Remedial Matters) Bill quietly became law while we were distracted with a Cabinet reshuffle that demoted Housing Minister Phil Twyford.

Under the vague sub heading “Allocation of deductions for excess residential land expenditure”, the omnibus tax Act:

(a) limits a person’s deductions for expenditure incurred in relation to residential land to income derived from the land;

(b) suspends deductions for the excess expenditure for the income year in which the expenditure is incurred;

(c) provides that the excess amounts are carried forward to later income years in which the person derives residential income; and

(d) releases the excess amounts on fully-taxed disposals of land.

Inland Revenue said in various statements that 116,000 owners declared an average loss of $7138 ($137 a week) on earnings in the 2016/17 tax year, bringing an average tax benefit of $2000 a year to each, creating a total cost of $232-million to them.

“The Minister responsible for this, Revenue Minister Stuart Nash, is probably unaware that losses accrue at the first stages of a property investing career, and that as debt is reduced and income increases, investors become taxpayers, with some paying tens of thousands of dollars in tax each year,” Mr Butler said.

“Rental property owners who are losing money now face a choice — raise the rent to cover the loss, absorb the loss to apply it in the future to any profit, or sell,” he said.

“With rents at historic highs it is unlikely owners could add an average extra $137 every week to rents,” Mr Butler said.

“This means owners must choose between hanging on or selling,” he said. “The short answer is to sell, with stand-alone dwellings going to first home buyers.”

“With loss-making owners selling and the prospect of an extended and more fraught period of trading at a loss creating a barrier to new investors, the Minister has just sped up the reduction of the supply of rental property,” Mr Butler said.

“As a result, rents will continue to rise and homelessness will increase,” he said.

The problem for everyone is that the Government is in denial that the policies it is enacting to solve a housing crisis are making the crisis exponentially worse, Mr Butler said.

Labour, New Zealand First, and the Green Party voted in favour on the third reading of the bill on June 20, while National and Jamie Lee Ross voted against it. Hansard has no record of a vote by the ACT Party.

Stop the War on Tenancies is a group that since last October has been highlighting the evidence that successive governments have ignored while creating rental property policy.

Hopefully pragmatism will replace Twyford’s agendas

Tenants and owners may hope that some pressure may have gone now that Phil Twyford is no longer Housing Minister, paying the price for the political embarrassment that KiwiBuild became, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today.

His tinkering with rental property standards and tenancy law helped hike rents and drove a number to sell, creating a new housing crisis, Mr Butler said.

Insulation standards based on optimum costs and benefits had already been set by the previous government and Mr Twyford’s requirement for additional insulation would incur extra costs for little extra benefit, he said.

Requiring a fixed heater makes little sense when there is a wide range of affordable heaters that tenants already use to suit their needs, he said.

Installing extractor fans, which are costly, difficult to install, or have an opening window in the way, is in many cases a waste of money. Properties may be ventilated by opening windows.

The $200 million Mr Twyford allocated to the charity Housing First to house 1000 people over four years at a cost of $961 per person per week, relies on leasing properties from the private sector that have been difficult to find, Mr Butler said.

Mr Twyford’s somewhat desperate “build-to-rent” proposal would require substantial Government financial support and guarantees to get off the ground, just like the failed KiwiBuild programme, and would mean high-density, large apartment blocks that most likely would end up as ghettos, he said.

Whether the new Housing Minister, Megan Woods, is pragmatic or agenda-based remains to be seen, Mr Butler said.

The decider will be whether she proceeds with tinkering with the Residential Tenancies Act that would end the contractual rights of owners to end tenancies, and remove the ability to sell with vacant possession, as Housing New Zealand requires when buying properties from private owners, he said.

Stop the War on Tenancies is a group that since last October has been highlighting the errors made by successive governments while creating rental property policy.

See CHB 86-year-old moves out https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12238724

See Housing shortage first hurdle, https://i.stuff.co.nz/business/property/105735200/housing-shortage-first-hurdle-as-housing-first-moves-to-marlborough

The crisis the Housing Minister created

A report yesterday of a woman, 86, moving because of a 73 percent rent hike illustrates the crisis created by Housing Minister Phil Twyford, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today.

This story of a property being sold with the new owner hiking rent from $150 a week to $260 provides evidence of the consequences of Mr Twyford’s agenda that he refused to accept – that owners would sell and rents would rise.

The new owner said that the property needed work to be brought into line with the “healthy homes” standards, which was something he “supported”.

The new owner phrased his comment as if he had a choice, Mr Butler said.

In fact, rental property owners have no choice. They either comply with the standards that were imposed by regulation and include penalties of up to $200,000 for non-compliance, or sell, he said.

The out-going tenant did not say whether or not her flat was cold and damp, as the Minister alleged all rental properties were. Her only objection was the rent hike, Mr Butler said.

The property looks like a 1970s construction which may already comply with the 1978 insulation standard which achieves the greatest heat-loss prevention, he said.

The main justification for Mr Twyford’s standards was to prevent the hospitalisation each year of 6000 children for housing-sensitive illnesses.

As a one-bedroom flat, the flat under discussion would be unsuitable for children; this illustrates the short-sightedness of setting requirements for 588,700 properties for the supposed benefit of 6000, Mr Butler said.

Mr Twyford has created a new housing crisis and now both owners and tenants are paying the price, Mr Butler said.

Stop the War on Tenancies is a group that since last October has been highlighting the evidence that successive governments have ignored while creating rental property policy.

See CHB 86-year-old moves out https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12238724

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