3 Feb 2022

Minister steps in to change Kāinga Ora complaints process for unruly tenants

7:22 am on 3 February 2022

State house tenants who terrorise their neighbours can now be moved on faster after Kāinga Ora changed its complaints process.

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Not enough was being done to resolve problems with unruly tenants in state houses, Associate Minister of Housing Poto Williams says. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The state landlord came under scrutiny last year over its 'sustaining tenancies' policy that's seen no evictions in the last three years.

Originally designed to safeguard stable housing, terrorised neighbours say it's developed into a 'no eviction' loophole for the worst behaved.

Neighbours have spoken out about the devastating effects; stories of threats and abuse, sleepless nights and post-traumatic stress disorder with some uprooting their lives to move away.

Associate Minister of Housing Poto Williams told RNZ she was "really disturbed" to hear these stories.

"Clearly, from what was being expressed by neighbours and neighbourhoods, not enough was done in a timely way to resolve these issues."

Unmanageable tenants used to have to agree to be relocated but a new 'three strikes' process means the state landlord can act immediately.

The minister has now given Kāinga Ora the green light to use a 'three strikes' complaints scheme, provided for in the Residential Tenancies Act.

"Now what will happen is when there are three incidents of significant antisocial behaviour Kāinga Ora can now step in.

"[Kāinga Ora] can deal with the situation, can terminate the tenancy, can move tenants to another neighbourhood in a much more timely way than has happened in the past," Williams said.

The minister is confident the state landlord now has the tools required to ensure its tenants don't terrorise their neighbours.

'A big backdown' - National

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National's housing spokesperson Nicola Willis. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

National's housing spokesperson Nicola Willis said she will want to see these neighbours being able to live peaceful lives to believe the changes fix the problem.

"It is a big backdown from both the minister and the agency who to date have been very defensive about their policies for badly behaving tenants.

"And it's a shame that it took a sustained period of media stories of appalling behaviour from Kāinga Ora tenants for the minister to get this wake-up call."

The number of relocations for bad behaviour has ballooned since 2015; a year when only two tenants had to be moved on for being disruptive.

Answers to written parliamentary questions show this number rose to nine in 2016, 66 in 2017, 148 in 2018, 183 in 2019, 222 in 2020 and 100 in 2021.

Kāinga Ora hasn't evicted anyone in the last three years but Poto Williams maintains evictions are still possible, just a last resort.

This concerns one neighbour RNZ has agreed not to name, who says relocating tenants shifts the problem elsewhere and emboldens the worst behaviour.

"These people have got to understand that if they're going to perform like this then yes they will get evicted, that's the consequences of their actions.

"I don't want that to happen because they can be moved on to somewhere else but they need to understand that they can't behave like this and get away with it."

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