Has the Government gone and shafted the very people it was trying to protect with the passing into law of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill this week? The amendments now mean that a landlord has to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to evict a tenant for anti-social behaviour and only after that anti-social behaviour has occurred on three separate occasions.
Previously, landlords could themselves issue tenants with a 90-day notice to quit the property without involving the Tribunal.
Other changes include landlords having to give a reason for evicting a tenant; no hikes in rent for 12 months; victims of domestic violence being able to leave the tenancy with two days' notice; and a ban on bidding wars — if you offer the property at a certain price, you can't then let the rental to someone who offers you more.
Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi says that with home ownership at a 60 year low and with nearly a third of households — around 600,000 — living in a rental property, the changes will improve tenants' security and stability while continuing to protect landlords' interests.
Most of the landlords who called me up disagreed. I'd scoffed at a report from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand that said nearly half of those surveyed were likely or highly likely to sell their investments if the right to issue a 90-day no-cause notice was scrapped. What were they going to do? Put the money in the bank for 1.6 per cent interest? Yeah, right.
But people rang me and told me that they had listed — or were about to list — their properties on AirBnB.
Others were going to sell and invest in commercial property. One landlord told me he had 32 people who turned up to view a property he was renting out — 20 of them because their landlord had sold — or was selling — the house that they were living in.
Many landlords were grumpy about the fact that they had to put in insulation and underfloor heating when they were living in homes without the same comforts.
National opposed the bill, calling it the "I Hate Landlords bill" and clearly there were many landlords who felt the bill was part of an ideologically driven policy to prevent people owning more than one house.
One young man, who identified himself as a renter, said that he didn't want the state interfering in his relationship with his landlord.
If he wanted to rent a mouldy, substandard flat for considerably less money than a higher-specced house, then he should be able to do so.
He was backed up by yet another property investor, who said that the healthy homes requirements meant that rental properties would all be let for roughly the same price and there'd be nothing on the market for those who were willing to sacrifice a warm, dry home for a mouldy hovel — think the old Otago Uni student flats — and save several hundred dollars.
However, if we want healthy communities, people have to be settled — to have a place they can call home, whether they're paying off their own mortgage or the landlord's.
If they have children, they don't want — nobody wants — those children moving from school to school as their addresses change with monotonous regularity.
Yes, there are ratbag renters but there are hopeless landlords too, who really shouldn't be in the business of housing humans.
Thankfully, we had enough property investors ringing in who held the tenet that you shouldn't let a house you weren't prepared to live in yourself and who weren't fazed at all by the changes coming in.
In fact, one woman said she hoped some of the landlords who'd be ringing in would follow through on their promise to sell off their investments because she would happily buy them up and take over the tenancies.
But there's clearly some dissatisfaction out there and it will be interesting to see whether the Government has, in effect, locked out some of the more vulnerable tenants, who won't be given a chance by landlords in light of the new rules.
The road to hell may be paved with good intentions but the road to homelessness might be as well.