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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.

ends

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