22 Nov 2022

Property managers to be regulated, meth testing changes, and healthy homes extension announced

12:42 pm on 22 November 2022
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Housing Minister Megan Woods has announced changes to the rental sector. File image Photo: 123rf.com

Residential property managers will soon need to be registered, trained, and licensed under new rules unveiled this morning.

Landlords will now have another year to get their rentals up to healthy home standards - including Kāinga Ora and community housing providers.

Housing Minister Megan Woods said Covid-19 supply chain issues had stunted compliance.

But a renters' advocacy group said that was not good enough and meant more people would end up in hospital.

The National Party has also criticised the move while the Greens have called for a warrant of fitness for homes, saying the government has no idea how many rentals are compliant with the healthy home standards.

Under today's announcement the public would also be consulted on new rules on methamphetamine residue levels and how tenancies can be terminated if the property was unsafe.

"Nearly 600,000 households rent in New Zealand and these measures will result in regulated oversight of residential property managers, science-based rules on meth residue testing and a reprieve for landlords in meeting a compliance deadline," Woods said in a statement.

"The government aims to ensure every New Zealander has a warm, dry, and safe place to call home, regardless of whether they own or rent. These initiatives build on the important work we've already done in the rental sector which all ultimately serve to improve the lives and outcomes of renting New Zealanders and their whānau."

Megan Woods

Housing Minister Megan Woods. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Woods said complaints about property managers would be dealt with through a new regulatory framework.

Given 42 percent of rentals were looked after by property managers, it was important to have regulations in place given the access they have to homes.

"Sometimes tenants are vulnerable to poor behaviour from residential property managers, especially in a tight rental market. Following our moves to give tenants more protection through the Residential Tenancies Act, we made a manifesto commitment in 2020 to regulate residential property managers."

"This means that like many other professions such as real estate agents, builders and lawyers, they will have conduct and competency standards to abide by and if they don't, they can be held to account."

Woods said Cabinet had agreed that the Real Estate Authority would be the regulator. The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal would have a role expanded to include property management-related issues.

Renters United spokesperson Geordie Rogers told Midday Report the extension meant more renters would end up in hospital with "totally preventable" illnesses.

"It means more children with rheumatic fever, it means more people becoming susceptible to illnesses like asthma. Generally, it means things are going to be worse for renters by pushing out this deadline."

Rogers said a study done by Otago University found tens of thousands of hospitalisations could be prevented every year through appropriate healthy homes legislation - one that went further than the current legislation.

Woods saying Covid-19 was the reason for the extension was not a good enough excuse, Rogers said.

The standards came out in 2019 and every landlord had the opportunity to improve their home straight away or wait, he said.

Those that chose to wait "chose to keep their renters in damp, cold housing", chose to "prioritise profit" and would have soon been facing consequences.

"At least they were because the government has now decided they need an extension, not enforcement."

Government hypocritical, National says

National Party housing spokesperson Chris Bishop criticised the move as hypocritical.

"The vast majority of private sector landlords have done the right thing - they've complied with the rules. Now it turns out the government can't actually comply with their own rules so they've given themselves a leave pass and pushed that deadline back.

"So it's one rule for the government and another rule for private sector landlords and I think it will be regarded as a real slap in the face by the private sector."

Chloe Swarbrick

Chloe Swarbrick Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The Green Party said a warrant of fitness for houses could stop tenants from getting sick.

MP Chloe Swarbrick said some renters were too scared to take their landlords to the Tenancy Tribunal, even when their homes were clearly unhealthy.

A warrant of fitness would help the government enforce healthy home standards and it had no idea at present how many rentals complied, she said.

Swarbrick said under the current system, renters were forced to advocate for themselves.

With regard to new meth testing rules, Woods said the public would be consulted on what an acceptable level of meth residue was, at what levels homes needed to be decontaminated, and when tenancies can be ended due to high levels.

"Currently there are two levels used - neither of which are legally binding - which create uncertainty for landlords and tenants," Woods said.

"We have proposals that are informed by science, on screening, testing, and decontamination, with clear obligations for landlords."

Woods said the government recognised Covid-19 had caused global supply issues, meaning some private landlords hadn't managed to get their homes up to the healthy homes standard.

"It makes sense to be pragmatic as most landlords are genuinely trying to comply with their obligations but are at risk of breaching them because of issues outside of their control."

"The change means private landlords have one more year to comply, so all private rentals must comply by 1 July 2025, instead of 1 July 2024.

"For Kāinga Ora and community housing providers, the timeframe for compliance shifts from 1 July 2023 to a new date of 1 July 2024."

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