Everyone deserves a warm comfortable home to live in.

Unfortunately the reality is there are thousands of people all over the country who don't have anywhere to call home.

There are people living on the streets, in emergency motel accommodation, in garages, cars and basically anywhere they can get a roof over their heads.

There just aren't enough houses to go around.

Advertisement

Read more: Linda Hall: Hospital staff handle pressure well
Linda Hall: From treasure to trash on beach walk
Linda Hall: A hard act to swallow

House prices in Hawke's Bay are soaring and so are some rental properties.

At the moment there are proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act on the table.

The proposed changes include increasing the amount of notice a landlord must generally give tenants to terminate a tenancy from 42 days to 90 days, limiting price increases to one a year, whether there should be limitations on the practice of "rent bidding" and better equipping tenants and landlords to reach agreement about pets and minor alternations to the home.

I totally agree with limiting price increases to once a year and even more talk around pets, although I've seen what damage some animals do to properties.

As for "rent bidding", I think that's really unfair. Desperate people end up going higher than they can afford. This practice could well come back and bite the landlord on the behind. Better to set the rent at a reasonable rate knowing tenants can pay it.

However, while we are looking at the laws to protect tenants we should also be looking at the laws to protect landlords.

Most landlords, I think, are pretty reasonable. However, it's the same old story, really. The greedy ones renting properties with no heating, in disrepair and charging an arm and a leg are the ones who give the good ones a bad name.

It's also the good ones who end up out of pocket because they give their tenant the benefit of the doubt when they miss a payment.

I know of one property owner whose tenant moved in and the very next week asked for security lights because they were alone and felt unsafe. They were duly installed.

The next request was for security latches on the windows. Again, the landlord obliged.

Several weeks later a payment was missed. The landlord, who, I might add, had a property manager, believed the story of hard times and the promise of catching up.

To cut a long story short, the tenant did a runner, leaving behind piles of rubbish and a damaged house.

The landlord ended up $5000 out of pocket and with not much hope of ever getting it back. They told me that even if it did end up going to a tribunal or court, the former tenant would likely be ordered to pay $10 a week and "What then when they stop paying it - do I have to chase it again and again?''

This person has worked really hard to be able to afford to buy this house. They then spent every spare moment painting, cleaning and making sure it was warm, clean and dry for whoever rented it.

To see it treated with such disregard must have been horrible.

What we don't want to see happen is landlords selling their properties because it's just too hard to keep them. That will make it even harder for tenants to find a decent place to live at a reasonable price.

Careful thought on both sides must go into these new laws so the housing problem doesn't get any worse.

• Linda Hall is assistant editor of Hawke's Bay Today.