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Government Gives Landlords A Raw Deal

Friday 3 May 2002

ACT Housing Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman says today is a bad day for New Zealand's estimated 170,000 landlords with the first reading in Parliament of the Government's flawed Residential Tenancy Amendment Bill.

"The Bill provided the opportunity for the Government to sort out problems which exist in the rental housing market - but what the Government's come up with fails to address the real issues and targets the wrong areas.

"The Bill gets tough on landlords - but fails to recognise that by far the greatest problems in the whole rental housing area are caused by a small number of bad tenants and inadequate law to police them. Most tenants are good - but a small proportion of tenants are responsible for most of the 39,000 complaints to the Tenancy Tribunal each year.

"The bill fails to address a major problem for landlords - that of locating former tenants for the purposes of serving court orders for payment of outstanding rent or damage to the property. After such cases appear before the Tenancy Tribunal a court order for rent arrears or damages is issued. It then becomes the responsibility of the landlord to provide their former tenant's new address to the Court so that the court order can be served.

"If the former tenant is a beneficiary however, the Ministry of Social Development hides behind the Privacy Act and refuses to provide details of the new address to the Court. In effect, the Department is preventing the rule of law being upheld, presumably because it is a civil matter. In criminal matters, such as the collection fines and other penalties, the information is provided by the Department.

"I have drafted a Private Member's Bill to address this issue. The Social Securities (Facilitation of Deductions and Recoveries) Amendment Bill enables the location details of former tenants to be provided by the Ministry of Social Development to an agent of the court for collection purposes.

"The bill also provides for those beneficiaries who rent from the private sector and who choose to do so, to have their rent deducted at source in the same way that they can so choose if their landlord is the state. Having rent deducted at source is an excellent way for those people who have difficulty budgeting, from falling behind in their rent.

"This is a provision that the government clearly needs to use more often since $1.4 million is owed by Housing New Zealand tenants in overdue rents with $15,651 being owed by one tenant alone. By not addressing issues relating to bad tenants the Government has thumbed its nose at justice and condoned the actions of tenants who habitually break the law and get away with it," Dr Newman said.

Ends

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