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Protection For Boarding House Tenants

Long term residents of boarding houses will get greater protection as a result of proposed changes announced by Housing Minister Mark Gosche today.

Other changes include introducing exemplary damages of up to $3000 for landlords of substandard houses.

The changes for boarding house tenants mean:

· Some of the Residential Tenancies Act's protection for general tenants will be extended to cover those using a boarding house as their home. The Act currently excludes boarding house tenancies.

· New provisions will be provided to regulate how a boarding house tenancy can be ended, including notice periods required, rules for what happens to abandoned possessions and the payment of bonds.

As well as protecting the interests of tenants, the changes will take into account the interests of boarding house owners in providing accommodation for people who may be more transient, and also the interests of other residents in boarding houses.

At the same time the Act is to be toughened to allow for exemplary damages of up to $3000 for landlords who do not upgrade substandard houses.

"Currently there are no penalties the Tenancy Tribunal can impose on landlords to deter them from providing appalling substandard housing. We are going to change that."

Another change will see landlords liable for letting fees if the property is listed with a real estate agency. The government considered it was inequitable for a tenant to pay for the real estate agent's services when it is the landlord that hired the agent, Mr Gosche said.

The Act will also be changed to clarify some aspects and to make the Tenancy Tribunal and Tenancy Services more cost effective and efficient. As a result tenants and landlords will have greater certainty.

On the boarding house changes Mr Gosche said community groups have long advocated such protection.

"Those living in boarding houses are often among the most vulnerable in our communities. They are often without family or support and unable to afford or cope with other forms of accommodation. They have a right to the same sort of protection that other tenants now take for granted since the Act came into effect under Labour in 1987."

While other legislation had been used for boarding house tenancy issues, specifically including these issues in the Residential Tenancies Act would mean the rights and obligations of both tenants and boarding house owners were more clearly defined, said Mr Gosche.

In addition the changes would give boarding house tenants and house owners access to the mediation service and the Tenancy Tribunal to deal with landlord/tenant disputes.

Because those living in boarding houses often needed additional support due to their special circumstances, housing officials are to consider ways in which support and advocacy services could be provided to boarding house residents and owners, Mr Gosche said.

The changes will require legislation that is expected to be introduced early next year. That legislation will cover those using boarding houses as their home, but would exclude those who were using such accommodation for holiday purposes or on a casual short-term basis.

Based on 1996 census figures approximately 12,000 people might be affected by the boarding house changes, Mr Gosche said.

Ends


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