Why not free food and power with your free rent?

Why was a call for several months of free rent by a writer in the prestigious but now defunct Metro magazine not accompanied by a call for free food and power for everyone? Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today.

Reacting to news of a mortgage holiday for homeowners, in an article published on Monday, March 27, Tess Nichol wrote “I seriously wonder how much a few months of missed rent should matter”.

Nichol understood both that banks required payment of principal and interest not paid during mortgage holidays, and that “a renter may never pay back the missed rent”.

But with a median rent of $465, a six-month rent holiday that may never be repaid would cost the owner $12,090, while rates, insurance, and taxation payments would continue.

Most of New Zealand’s 290,000 rental property owners own just one or two properties managed in conjunction with a day job which a number would have already lost as a result of the lockdown.

Why does she single out landlords? Why does she not require supermarkets to give six months free food to customers who rent their homes, six months free electricity from electricity providers to renters, six-months free petrol, and so on.

Actually, why does she single out renters?

Why not demand for everyone six-month mortgage holidays that are not repaid, as well as six months free food, electricity, and petrol for everyone?

Rental property owners tend not to speak out or fight back but this is an instance when the absurdity of the attack needs a bit of ridicule.

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.

See https://www.metromag.co.nz/city-life/city-life-property/coronavirus-covid-19-landlords-rent-holiday-strike

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

What evidence-based ‘healthy home’ standards look like

Evidence-based rental property standards would require ceiling insulation to the 1978 standard, no subfloor insulation, and nothing more, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today.

Advice to the Government obtained under the Official Information Act (See http://tenancieswar.nz/healthy-homes-legislation/)  shows no support for the claim that heat pumps, extra insulation, extractor fans, draught-proofing, and moisture-proofing, which soon may be imposed under the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act, would keep 10,800 children out of hospital each year.

The World Health Organisation never recommended a minimum indoor temperature, as the discussion document claimed, and the Building Research Association of New Zealand found that only 2.7 percent of renters thought their dwelling was cold and damp, which is hardly a crisis, Mr Butler said. (See The proposed healthy homes regulations: an assessment http://www.tailrisk.co.nz/documentlist)

We already have standards for rental property and if Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford followed advice, the standards he would confirm under regulation would be thus:

  • Heating: A tenant should be able to use whatever he or she chooses to plug in so long as it is safe. Both fixed and portable heaters can deliver sufficient warmth. Last year, Housing New Zealand found that a number of tenants would not use 15,000 fixed heaters recently installed because they were not what they were used to. (see  http://tenancieswar.nz/2018/10/09/complaints-show-problem-with-heaters-in-rentals/?fbclid=IwAR3uFj9j1V95oRmjDl1Q_TbFpWNXJxXMfpFtJO1aWezlB-JxOxipfoG2PxE ) The high price of electricity is the greatest barrier to poor people turning on the heater, not the presence or absence of a heater. Wood-burners are useful for those who prefer a fire.
  • Insulation: Ceiling insulation to the 1978 standard of R1.9 for most of the North Island should be the standard because it has the greatest impact and anything over that has diminishing cost-effectiveness. Underfloor insulation is a waste of money because it hardly reduces heat loss. Owners forced to install it should be compensated.
  • Ventilation: Windows that may be opened is a basic standard of ventilation and have been required since 1947 under Home Improvement Regulations of that year. There is no solid evidence that mould is a serious issue in rental properties.
  • Draught-proofing: Residents will protect themselves from draughts when they need to and any serious issues may be remedied through discussion with the owner. Requiring draught-stopping tape in gaps greater than 3mm in 588,700 rental properties is absurd.
  • Moisture-proofing: No evidence has been offered to prove all rental properties suffer from rising damp. The evidence is that 2.7 percent are perceived as cold and damp. Dampness problems are remedied by discussion with the owner or through the Tenancy Tribunal.

The outrageous $4000 dob-in-your landlord incentive imposed by the previous government should be dropped, he said.

The attempt to blame housing-related hospitalisations of 10,800 children annually on the condition of 588,700 rental properties while ignoring 1.1 million owner-occupied properties and not accounting for overcrowding is deceitful, he said.

Up to $7000 of extra spending per property may be required if every rental property required a heat pump, extra insulation, extractor fans, as well as the suggested draught-proofing and moisture proofing and this would have little benefit, Mr Butler said. (See http://tenancieswar.nz/2018/11/)

The money for extra compliance can only come by way of a rent increase from the tenant who is in effect being forced into buying extra appliances and building material without necessarily wanting it, he said.

A more-effective way ahead should be driven by owners and tenants in which any issues with heating, insulation, ventilation, draught and moisture proofing could be sorted out by agreement, he 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.

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