27 Aug 2018

'It's a pretty punishing experience for many renters'

1:01 pm on 27 August 2018

The government wants to change the culture of renting in New Zealand within the parliamentary term.

House  with "For Rent" sign in front

Photo: 123rf

Housing Minister Phil Twyford and Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson released a discussion document on the issue this morning.

They will look at scrapping no-cause tenancy terminations, increasing the notice landlords have to give tenants if they are to end one, and limiting rent increases to once a year.

They are also looking at measures to end rent-bidding wars - a recent factor in New Zealand's bigger cities.

Mr Twyford said this is a "generational reset of the way we rent in New Zealand".

"We want to make life better for renters, because at the moment it's a miserable and pretty punishing existence for many renters. It's got to be better than this," he said.

The government's looking to policies introduced in Scotland and Ireland for inspiration, but Mr Twyford said this will have to work for New Zealanders.

"We can look around the world at a number of other jurisdictions who take different approaches, but its not about picking a new system off the shelf, we've got to design something that works here and now for us in New Zealand."

Ms Davidson used her own experiences with a bad landlord to highlight the issues in the market.

"Right when I became an MP. I had a kitchen rotting out the back, drafts through the windows, uninsulated, garage door falling off. And I was evicted because of the investment market," she said. "It was an on-sale to investors."

Ms Davidson said she went from the back of a line of prospective renters to the front, as soon as she landed that MP salary.

"Previously I'd looked at 50, applied for 30. Had to beg for a property that no-one else wanted. Big change. And the privilege - you shouldn't have to become an MP to be able to get a rental property."

But both said not all landlords were bad and they were hoping to strike the right balance for renters and landlords.

National's housing spokesperson Judith Collins said this proposed reform of the Residential Tenancies Act was an uninformed and knee-jerk decision.

She said it would not solve any problems and will cause renters to pay even more.

"If Mr Twyford thinks government price controls will stop tenants paying more for rent, he's being naive.

"By limiting rent increases to once a year, landlords will be forced to raise rents higher and sooner, meaning tenants will actually be paying the same or more in the long run," she said.

"As usual Mr Twyford's announcement has been made in a vacuum away from reality - he needs to start thinking about the impacts of his vague housing policies and stop loading the costs onto New Zealand families."

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