Tenancy reforms miss the main point — unpaid rent

Tenancy reforms miss the main point — unpaid rent

Evidence obtained on Friday under the Official Information Act shows that Housing Minister Phil Twyford’s tenancy law tinkering misses the main issue, which is unpaid rent, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today.

The information release by Tenancy Services came just days before the deadline for submissions on tenancy law reforms on October 21, and on extra standards on October 22.

For the 2017-18 financial year there were 35,581 applications to the Tenancy Tribunal, with 31,031 lodged by rental property owners or managers, and of these, 25,329 applications were over unpaid rent, according to Tenancy Services.

Mr Twyford’s proposed changes to tenancy law would prevent owners from ending tenancies contractually, ban fixed-term tenancies, give tenants the right to modify a property, allow tenants to keep pets as of right, and enable Government officials to enter boarding houses at any time.

Persistent unpaid rent which makes up 72 percent of total applications to the Tenancy Tribunal is the elephant in the room is that the Minister is either unaware of or refuses to acknowledge, Mr Butler said.

Unpaid rent is bad for owners, who must forego income, and bad for tenants, who will have a black mark on their credit history, he said.

The New Zealand Property Investor’s Federation has suggested stronger law around unpaid rent which could mean charging interest on unpaid rent, the ability to charge tenants’ credit cards, or exemplary damages for refusal to pay rent, Mr Butler said.

Tenancy Services also revealed that owners and managers had filed 1118 notices to quit, 158 for unlawful activity, 95 for failure to allow entry, and 77 for assault.

Tenants had filed 270 notices to quit, 14 for unlawful activity, one for failure to allow entry, and 13 for assault.

Tenants had also filed 668 notices to do with breaches of quiet enjoyment (owners 18) and 338 retaliatory notices (owners 1).

The worst case occurred last year when a property manager and her daughter were murdered at a property near Whangarei while visiting for an inspection and to install smoke alarms.

See: Northland shooting – Mother and daughter die https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11895553

Unpaid rent, notices to quit, unlawful activity, failure to allow entry, and assault are the actual issues between owners and tenants, Mr Butler said, and Mr Twyford’s reforms don’t touch on any of these.

“Considering that there are 588,700 rental properties in New Zealand, the 35,581 disputes represented only six percent of the total tenancies in operation last year”, Mr Butler said. “This shows that tenancies on the whole run pretty smoothly”.

A request under the Official Information Act to the Minister about additional standards that will require owners to provide and maintain heat pumps, install additional insulation, extractor fans for kitchens and bathrooms, install under-floor polythene sheets to stop rising damp, and place draught-proofing tape around all windows and doors has not been responded to.

Both requests for information were sent in around September 12.

The group Stop the War on Tenancies aims to empower both owners and tenants in the face of ongoing Government ineptitude with housing.

Attention rental property owners

Please put in your submissions today on far-reaching proposed changes to tenancy law and extra rental property standards.

This is because these proposals will have a big impact on you.

Proposed changes to tenancy law will prevent you from ending tenancies contractually, ban fixed-term tenancies, give tenants the right to modify a property, allow tenants to keep pets as of right, and enable Government officials to enter boarding houses at any time.

Additional standards will require you to provide and maintain expensive heat pumps, install additional insulation, extractor fans for kitchens and bathrooms, install under-floor polythene sheets to stop rising damp, and place draught-proofing tape around all windows and doors.

Putting in two submissions may be a 15-minute task by going here:

http://tenancieswar.nz/tenancyreform/ on tenancy law reform,

http://tenancieswar.nz/healthy-homes-legislation/ on the extra standards.

The proposals are not evidence-based; they are to satisfy a small group of vocal supporters of the current Government.

Many owners who are disgusted with being used as scapegoats by successive governments are selling, with first-home buyers snapping up stand-alone houses.

This means there will be fewer rental properties available, rents will increase, and prospective tenants will face tougher scrutiny.

Nobody in Government appears to have thought that through.

Put in your submissions today.

Follow the links above, follow the directions, print the submission forms out, fill them in, and mail them in by Friday.

The deadline is 5pm on Sunday, October 21, for tenancy law, and 5pm on Monday, October 22, at, for standards.

One further step to take — please like this post and share it to all your Facebook friends.

Complaints show problem with heaters in rentals

Complaints that 15,000 heaters installed in Housing New Zealand properties don’t heat give the appearance of an epic blunder and show a problem with forcing private rental property owners to provide heaters, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today.

Yesterday, Radio New Zealand reported issues with the 2000-watt electric convection panel heaters that some said took too long to warm up. Tenants resorted to using either electric fan, oil-filled, or radiant heaters that they were accustomed to.

The issue surfaced during a submission period on proposals to require rental property owners to provide heaters for rental properties, install additional insulation, extractor fans for kitchens and bathrooms, under-floor polythene sheets to stop rising damp, and draught-proofing tape around windows and doors.

“There was no mention in the news item whether Housing New Zealand tested the heaters before installation”, Mr Butler said.

A test may be performed by anyone with a thermometer and may be done by closing the windows, curtains, and doors of a room and powering up the heater to raise the room temperature to 18C, which is the “healthy” standard adopted by the Government.

“Surprisingly, a 2400-watt electric fan heater costing just $30 will heat a State-house living room to the required 18C on a winter night”, Mr Butler said.

“So there should be no need to force rental property owners to install expensive heaters that may attract complaints as happened with Housing New Zealand properties”, he said.

“No evidence other than reference to a World Health Organisation standard has been provided to prove that anyone is in peril if the temperature in their environment falls below 18C”, Mr Butler said.

“Moreover, the preference by tenants for electric fan, oil-filled, or radiant heaters mentioned in the Radio NZ report shows the folly of imposing a one-heater-suits-all requirement on owners of rental property, as Housing New Zealand has already found out”, he said.

“The best way forward for the Housing Minister is to leave it to us to work out the best way to keep warm during winter. That has never been a problem up to now”, Mr Butler said.

“Most New Zealand houses haven’t changed and the climate is supposed to be warming”, he said.

“The only changes have been the ban on open fires in urban areas following the 2004 new National Standards for Air Quality, as well as meteoric increases in the price of electricity, which nearly doubled in the 10 years from 2004, he said.

The group Stop the War on Tenancies aims to empower both owners and tenants in the face of ongoing Government ineptitude with housing.

See: Housing NZ tenants complain about ineffective heaters. https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/368148/housing-nz-tenants-complain-about-ineffective-heaters

Minister, there is an economic reason for letting fees

A claim by Housing Minister Phil Twyford that letting fees were unfair and had no economic rationale shows naivete unbefitting of a Minister, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today.

Mr Twyford made the claim in first reading of the Government’s Residential Tenancies (Prohibiting Letting Fees) Amendment Bill.  The select committee recommended on Thursday that the bill should become law on December 12.

The amendment will prevent charging the equivalent of one week’s rent in letting fees by property managers when they take on a new tenant.

“Far from having ‘no economic rationale’, a letting fee covers the costs incurred letting a tenancy, and for Mr Twyford’s benefit, here is exactly what a re-let costs, Mr Butler said.

“A recent re-let of a $225 per week flat included $102 to Trade Me for the advert and five hours of work responding to 15 inquiries, conducting a viewing, checking references, signing up the new tenant, thanking all applicants, as well as doing the paperwork and lodging the bond”, Mr Butler said.

“If a property manager was paid $22 an hour, the total cost of that re-let was $212, which is pretty much equivalent to a week’s rent”, he said.

“Re-letting takes time and money and if done by a property manager, the manager must be paid”, Mr Butler said.

“The only source of money in a rental is rent, which is paid by the tenant”, he said.

“It looks like Mr Twyford has focussed solely on the benefit to the tenant and political benefit for his government and ignored the cost to the property manager who ultimately is paid for out of rent”, Mr Butler said.

“The amendment is yet another onslaught on the 10-year war on owners of rental property by successive governments which should stop”, Mr Butler said.

The current shortage of affordable rental property shows renters face much the same problem as home buyers, he said.

“The Minister should be providing incentives to increase the supply of rental property instead of trying to shift associated costs on to owners”, Mr Butler said.

The group Stop the War on Tenancies aims to empower both owners and tenants in the face of ongoing Government ineptitude with housing.

See: Govt to abolish letting fees by Christmas https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2018/10/government-to-abolish-letting-fees-by-christmas.html

1 2