Renting is increasingly becoming what people do, until they reach their 40s at least, in New Zealand. So what is it like out there?
In New Zealand, 42 per cent of New Zealand adults rent, according to the 2013 Census. But what do tenants think about how landlords are treating them?
Illana Norris, a working mother of two in Auckland has had a leaky roof and a blocked drain for over a month now, forcing her to collect leaking water in buckets during downpours. She's had no luck getting the overseas landlord to make repairs.
Meanwhile the leak continues, damaging the house, and the blocked overflowing drain has turned the driveway into a stream.
"The owner knew I worked in the property industry and said that I should fix it," she said.
Illana has been renting the same house for years. Previously it had been rented through an agent, who she says had dealt with problems more efficiently.
Things went downhill after the owner unsuccessfully tried to sell the property, then took over managing it.
She says one reason she rents is because it has been easier to get the problems fixed by the landlord rather than having the responsibilities of ownership – until now. She is looking for a new flat — and was a bit cagey talking in case she gets evicted.
Landlords' reluctance to make repairs, including water issues, is a common complaint, say tenants advice groups. Angela Maynard, coordinator Tenants Protection Association (Auckland), recalls a damp house case.
She says loose roofing iron was causing the dampness and mould, letting in rain. The association asked the landlord to fix it, but he replied he was too busy with his family to focus on repairs to his nine rental properties.
Tenants' help groups say the housing shortage has made it harder to be a tenant. Rents have been rising, while wages have been flat.
English teacher Rebecca Cookson rented for several years in the South Island, before the earthquake and chilly climate drove her north. One Sunday morning, while having a late breakfast with her partner and his 8-year-old son in Christchurch, the landlady called in unannounced.
"The landlady wanted to know why we were having breakfast so late in the morning," says Cookson. Then the landlady became upset a child was on the premises.
She claimed it was a breach of the rental agreement. It was not, and Cookson felt it was no way to speak about the boy, who became upset by the attention.
"It was all rubbish," says Cookson. "He wasn't living with us, and there was nothing in the contract about children.
"She just marched in. We were just having brunch. She seemed offended by that."
Cookson claims the landlady later told her that she wanted a family member to take over the property. Cookson believes it was a way of ending the tenancy in a hurry, as the notice period in these circumstances is 42 days as opposed to 90s days. It was difficult to disprove, so Cookson left — a time-consuming and expensive exercise: employing movers, all while she was studying for exams.
Then came the kicker. At the final property inspection, the landlady reckoned there were coffee stains on the bench and that some walls had to be cleaned. The landlady refused to return any of the bond.
"She wouldn't give the bond back, or discuss it or anything," Cookson.
Cookson eventually got her money back after taking her case to the Tenancy Tribunal.
Next, Cookson rented a property through an agent. She signed for a fixed term of a year, but was not given a copy of the agreement. It turned out the overseas-based owners' circumstances changed, and they wanted the property back. The agent then said Cookson had a periodic tenancy.
Cookson visited the Tenants Protection Association in Christchurch which found, she says, that the agent was mistaken. Cookson stayed until the end of the contract and then moved to Auckland.
Auckland is a great place to be but a bad place to rent, Cookson says. Apart from the high cost in general, there is a lack of one- and two-bedroom places suitable for couples.
The high cost of renting their own place, where they can safely raise children, means many couples are delaying having children, she says.
For greater Auckland, Barfoot & Thompson data shows the average two-bedroom dwelling costs $459 a week and in central suburbs, $489.
Tenants' help groups say the housing shortage has made it harder to be a tenant. Rents have been rising, while wages have been flat. Maynard says there are a lot of rent increases. She recalls a recent hike of $150 a week. Under the law, landlords can raise rents every six months. Maynard would like to see this period extended to several years.
Rents are increasing more than twice as fast as general inflation. Average weekly rents in Auckland are up by $23, or 4.6 per cent in 12 months, says Barfoot & Thompson's January 2018 rental report.
Other data suggests even faster increases are happening. The rent for two-bedroom properties in Wellington and Hamilton has increased 30 per cent in the last 12 months, the Government's "A Stocktake of New Zealand Housing" report found.
Auckland Action Against Poverty co-ordinator Alastair Russell has met thousands of unhappy renters over the past decade. Problems range from unfixed leaks to infestations of rodents. He recalls a whole block of flats infested with rats.
The usual legal option for tenants to deal with an unreasonable landlord is the Tenancy Tribunal. It's paid for from the interest from tenants' bonds, and is less formal than a court. But Russell finds most renters are not aware they have a right to complain to the tribunal. The current act, the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, does not help, he says.
People are only too aware "50 or 100 people are waiting" to find a house.
"Any landlord can issue any tenant with a 90-day notice," he says.
Russell advises renters to work together, forming a relationship with the church or other community groups, so they have more than the power of one against an unreasonable landlord.
Still, the Tenancy Tribunal does have considerable powers.
In a recent case, the landlord/tenant relationship had broken down after a landlord failed to fix a leak in the lounge and bedroom. The disgruntled tenant cleared out without paying four weeks' rent.
The tribunal found that although rent was still owed, the landlord had to pay compensation during the period the house was leaky. He was out of pocket for more than $1000, in addition to the house being empty for a while, plus the cost of the repairs.
Most cases that make it to the tribunal are taken by landlords, not tenants, though, says Shamubeel Eaquub, co-author of the stocktake report. (download at goo.gl/vsx4z8).
Tenants and landlords have a choice between a periodic and a fixed-term
Maynard says the 90-day notice rule doesn't work for tenants, but neither does a 12-month fixed tenancy. The rule enables landlords to end a tenancy without giving a reason.
Maynard would like to see longer-term rental contracts with flexibility for tenants to move out if they need to.
The good news for tenants is that change is coming.
Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford, told the Herald that a review of the Residential Tenancies Act will get under way this year.
"The review will advance a range of changes to make life better for renters and will include consideration of banning letting fees and limiting rent increases to once per year," he says.
"It will also contain other initiatives to improve security of tenure and better allow tenants to make their house a home. This review is expected to result in legislation being introduced to Parliament by the end of the year."
Labour says it will lift the 42-day eviction rule for family members to 90 days.
Rebecca Cookson reckons she has lived in 10 flats.
She found herself out of pocket after moving to the SuperCity, because renting in Auckland is so expensive, she says, and many people don't get paid much.
Cookson discovered the previous National Government had changed the regulations for teachers and she had lost her teacher's certificate, because she works part-time.
Re-certification involved doing a long refresher course, for which she would have to pay.
In this Catch-22 situation, her income had fallen, and re-training was unaffordable.
Since moving to Auckland, Cookson generally has flatted in a house, paying $200-plus a week. She is now in a large home with three older flatmates.
The main problem is that the head flatmate, whose signature is on the rental agreement, has a position of power.
Cookson has found head flatmates sometimes are reluctant to pay back the bond when
a tenant leaves.
Unlike a landlord's bond, Cookson says these bonds are not lodged with the Government. Tenancy law is lacking, she says, because it is not possible to take other flatmates to the Tenancy Tribunal, only to the Disputes Tribunal, which she has done with success.
"There is no protection for tenants if there is a bad head tenant," she says."Head tenants should be compelled to the lodge the bond."
At previous flats, has Cookson objected to other flatmates getting drunk, using drugs or "being nut jobs".
She stresses she gets on well with her current flatmates.
She plans to get her teacher's certificate back, now that the Government pays most of the retraining fee.
Long term, Cookson would like to buy her own property, out of Auckland, where houses are affordable.