20 Feb 2009

Landlords welcome tenancy law shakeup

8:45 am on 20 February 2009

Landlords are welcoming moves to review tenancy laws, in particular the provision that proposed limiting the amount tenants have to pay to repair damages.

Housing Minister, Phil Heatley, is reviewing the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill.

The National-led Government says the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill - introduced by the former Labour government - would have lumbered landlords with the cost of damage by tenants.

One of the suggested changes would see the removal of a proposed cap on the amount tenants have to pay for damage of four weeks rent.

Property investor and president of Wellington's Capital Property Investment Association Alistair Gillespie says it can cost more than four weeks worth of rent to repair some damage.

Auckland Property Investors Association vice president Andrew King says a cap takes away the responsibility for damage from the tenant and puts it on the landlord.

Tenancy Protection Association spokesperson Helen Gatonyi says landlords already have recovery provisions in place, if the damage is proven to be careless, intentional or malicious, and excess costs of any damage should be covered by insurance.

Mr King says tenants who disappear without paying rent cannot, at present, be fined. Landlords can claim back rent arrears only, he says.

Ms Gatonyi says a fine would not change the behaviour of bad tenants, who probably would not pay it anyway.

Property owners influencing government, says Labour

The Labour Party has accused the Government of acting as a mouthpiece for landlords over the review.

Labour MP and former Building and Construction Minister Shane Jones says property owners have influenced the Government, which is further weakening the rights of tenants.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley says changes are also required to give landlords more power to deal with unruly tenants and their associates.

Green Party housing spokesperson Sue Bradford says the Bill as it stood would have made the rental market fairer.

She says reviewing it before it is considered by a select committee denies the public a say.

Mr Heatley says, at present, if a tenant's guest intimidates a neighbour or damages any property, the landlord cannot hold the tenant accountable.

The minister says while tenants can still be held liable through police action, landlords will be unable to get on top of the situation until laws change.