The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations applauds the changes to the Residential Tenancies Act released by the government yesterday but does not believe that they go far enough to improving the rights of renters.
The power imbalance in the current rental market is weighted heavily in favour of landlords. The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill make steps towards recalibrating this imbalance.
NZUSA President Isabella Lenihan-Ikin says that “students are vulnerable tenants. We need to ensure that students live in secure, safe housing and this Bill goes some way to achieve this.”
Students will benefit from the anonymisation of successful Tenancy Tribunal decisions, rent increases being limited to once every 12 months, the increasing of financial penalties for legal breaches, and prohibiting the solicitation of rental bids by landlords.
The proposed removal of the ability for landlords to terminate a tenancy without reason gives students greater security over their rental accommodation. Housing insecurity fuels fear and anxiety among students, and the Bill helps to alleviate this.
However, the Bill fails to address many of the pressing issues faced by students in the rental market. It fails to address the uncontrollable cost of rents across the country.
Effective rental legislation reform needs to include a cap on rent increases, as well as mandate a maximum rent for a property based on property value and location. This would ensure that rent charged would amount to fair compensation for use of the property and would prevent the exploitation of students for easy cash.