Property editor of the NZ Herald

Consensus over apartment law reform

A political consensus has emerged between two Auckland MPs over the need to reform the law governing the apartment and multi-unit sector.

After Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye this year launched a campaign to hear people's concerns, Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford said yesterday he supported her actions.


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"We need a review of the legislation. The governance provisions in the Unit Titles Act are too weak and there's a real problem around the long term maintenance plans. The UTA is not fit for purpose and there's been a number of alarming cases, particularly defects in the act around requirements for properly funded long-term maintenance plans and weaknesses in the governance requirements for body corporate managers," he said.

"The spotlight went on these problems when there are major weathertightness repairs to blocks which were shoddily built."

But he finds it bizarre that it was Kaye running the campaign for change.

"The National Cabinet has been deaf to people's concerns about the apartment sector," Twyford said, criticising its makeup as dominated by MPs outside Auckland.

Twyford's concerns come as more people look to buy apartments.

In 2014, PM John Key said Auckland first home buyers might have to consider an apartment to get onto the property ladder.

Kaye told a public meeting on Friday in Ponsonby that she had spoken to three other Cabinet ministers about the issue and their response was they did not see a problem with the system.

"We don't see any major evidence of issues here," she said she was told after discussions with Housing, Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith, Justice Minister Amy Adams and Land Information Minister Louise Upston.

However, after launching web site, she said the feedback centred on four areas: transparency and accessibility of information, long term maintenance plans, regulation of body corporate managers and governance issues.

Those at Friday's meeting also raised issues about the abuse of proxy votes and developers embedding themselves in apartment blocks by retaining unit ownership, appointing managers and seizing the power to influence body corporate decisions.

Kaye indicated a strong desire to change the system.

"My sense is that there needs to be some sort of change, whether that be legislative or whether it's things like making information more accessible."

She will soon produce a report outlining issues: "I will be working hard to present that to ministers and hopefully there will be some change."

David Watt, a retired Auckland accountant and apartment dweller, wants a body corporate registry established so people can access more information about the sector. Without change, he fears people will shun apartments.

"Inaction will pull the sector into disrepute at a time when the country, and Auckland in particular, is relying on high growth in apartment developments to better manage the housing shortage," Watt said.

Gary Stewart, another apartment dweller, said the act was updated not that long ago after a large number of public submissions.

- NZ Herald

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