Submit and vote against radical tenancy changes

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.

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.

Why don’t trashed tenancies lead to jail time?

 

A series of high-profile cases of trashed rental properties raises the question of why the perpetrators manage to avoid jail time for wilful damage, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today.

The Crimes Act is clear that a person who intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages any property is liable to be jailed for up to seven years.

“The Minister of Police and Police Commissioner should make a statement on why those who trash rental property are exempt from wilful damage charges,” Mr Butler said.

“Any government that was serious about applying the law in an even-handed manner would regard damage to rental property as offence under the Crimes Act warranting jail for up to seven years”, Mr Butler said

“There would be little difficulty in proving the case because the damage is visible for everyone to see and the person responsible has his or her name on the tenancy agreement”, Mr Butler said.

“In my experience, police have never done anything about complaints I have made about damage to rental property, and instead have said it was a matter for the Tenancy Tribunal,” Mr Butler said.

“And the Tenancy Tribunal questions the legitimacy of proof of the photographic evidence and starts to quibble as to whether the owner has insurance, whether damage is a single event or multiple events, and whether it is accidental or deliberate,” he said.

“If the persons named on any tenancy agreement faced charges and jail time after damage to property, we would have fewer instances of damage to rental property”, 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: Landlord left with $42,000 repair bill from tenant says law doesn’t protect investors

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12134894