Rental reform proposal offers little more than minor modifications

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) welcomes the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development’s (MHUD) intention to reform the outdated Residential Tenancies Act, but stated in a submission to the MHUD that the proposals put forth don’t go far enough to provide tenants the kind of protection they need in a private rental market which is increasingly unreliable.

“While we support most of the proposals offered in the discussion document we remain concerned that if these proposals alone are included in an amended RTA, tenants’ rights to have a house to call home will remain fundamentally compromised,” says CPAG Housing spokesperson Alan Johnson.

CPAG says that the scope proposed in this review really only considers the question of tenure security and then not in a particularly comprehensive way. The proposals offered in the Ministry’s discussion document are little more than minor modifications and are unlikely to do much to make tenants feel more at home in their rented property. They do not adequately address security of tenure, or tenants’ lack of market power with the increasing shortage of rental housing in many parts of New Zealand.

The proposal to limit rent increases to once yearly (replacing the current twice yearly rule) will not ensure rental housing is affordable unless rent increases are regulated.

“A twenty dollar per week rent increase every six months is no more affordable if it suddenly becomes a yearly forty dollar increase instead,” says Mr Johnson.

“There is even a likelihood it will be more of a shock and financial set-back for struggling families whose incomes have not increased by forty dollars a week over that time.”

CPAG says that the Act should also set out what an acceptable standard of rental accommodation is. While the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (2017) will likely lift housing around moisture control, thermal performance and heating, exemptions applied to certain housing will mean it is still easy to rent out substandard housing, and likely to families with low incomes.

“We suggest that the MHUD considers delaying this review until such time as a more fundamental review of tenancy law and the respective rights of landlords and tenants can be fully considered,” says Mr Johnson.

To read more in CPAG’s full submission, visit our website here.

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