The big problem is unpaid rent
Evidence obtained under the Official Information Act shows that Housing Minister Phil Twyford’s tenancy law “tinkering” misses the main issue — unpaid rent, according to Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler.
Information release by Tenancy Services before Sunday’s deadline for submissions on tenancy law reforms, and yesterday’s on extra standards, showed that of the 35,581 applications to the Tenancy Tribunal last financial year, 31,031 were lodged by landlords or managers, 25,329 relating to unpaid rent.
Mr Butler said Mr Twyford’s proposed changes would prevent owners from ending tenancies contractually, ban fixed-term tenancies, give tenants the right to modify a property, allow tenants to keep pets, and enable government officials to enter boarding houses at any time.
Persistent unpaid rent, 72 per cent of total applications to the Tenancy Tribunal, was the elephant in the room that the Minister was either unaware of or refused to acknowledge.
“Unpaid rent is bad for owners, who must forego income, and bad for tenants, who will have a black mark on their credit history,” Mr Butler said.
The New Zealand Property Investors’ Federation had suggested stronger law around unpaid rent, which could mean charging interest on arrears, charge tenants’ credit cards, or exemplary damages for refusal to pay rent.
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, 14 for unlawful activity, one for failure to allow entry, and 13 for assault.
Tenants had also filed 668 notices on breaches of quiet enjoyment (owners 18) and 338 retaliatory notices (owners 1).
“Unpaid rent, notices to quit, unlawful activity, failure to allow entry and assault are the actual issues between owners and tenants, and Mr Twyford’s reforms don’t touch on any of these,” he said. “Considering there are 588,700 rental properties in New Zealand, the 35,581 disputes represented only six per cent of the total tenancies in operation last year. This shows that tenancies on the whole run pretty smoothly.”
An Official Information Act request to the Minister about additional standards requiring landlords to provide and maintain heat pumps, install additional insulation, install extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms, install under-floor polythene sheets to stop rising damp, and place draughtproofing tape around all windows and doors had not been responded to.