27 Apr 2022

Call for new body to police regular checks on rentals to lift standards

8:51 am on 27 April 2022

The Human Rights Commission is calling for an independent housing authority to regulate the quality of rentals.

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Over 30 percent of tenants report dampness and mould. (file pic) Photo: 123RF

The commission's housing inquiry has found many rentals still do not meet decent living standards.

Inquiry project manager Vee Blackwood told Morning Report that findings included:

  • More than 30 percent of renters report dampness and mould compared with 15 percent of homeowners
  • 36 percent of tenants say their homes are always or often cold in winter compared with 22 percent of households generally
  • Half of people renting from Kāinga Ora say their homes are always or often colder than they would like in winter

"The data shows us that rental housing is of significantly poorer quality than homes owned and occupied," Blackwood said.

"It's not surprising but it is disappointing."

The Healthy Homes legislation which has come to fruition under the current government should help to improve housing overall and reduce the gap, Blackwood said.

However, it will only be possible if there are effective accountability measures to ensure landlords comply.

Blackwood said the only current course of action is for tenants unhappy with the standard of their rentals to complain to the Tenancy Tribunal, however, many tenants are frightened they will be evicted or they won't be able to find another property if they complain so they stay silent.

Other measures, such as a compulsory warrant of fitness scheme, would go a long way to "make sure rental houses are actually fit for people to live in", they said.

"Better accountability mechanisms are needed to be able to bring houses up to standard."

While it would be up to the government to decide how such a scheme would work, Blackwood said the report recommended the accountability mechanisms would need to have the ability to monitor, review and make remedial action.

So an independent housing commissioner or housing body would need to be set up.

"The important thing is that houses are being regularly monitored and reviewed in order to check if they meet their obligations under the right to a decent home."

Asked if the legislation was actually a failure, they said the data gathered was before its full effect could be gauged.

"Over the next two to three years we would expect to see significant improvement in these statistics.

"If we don't see that data shifting, that would imply that these mechanisms have failed."

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