An Upper Hutt pensioner is scrambling to find a way to get by after being told her rent would increase by $135 a week to keep in line with the market.
The woman, who did not want to be named, received an email from the property manager of her two-bedroom Wallaceville flat, informing her the rent would be increasing to $545 a week from mid-next month.
She is currently paying $410 per week for the flat, where she has been living with her daughter for about five years.
She has been desperately looking for another rental with no luck, and is now planning to approach Work and Income to see if she can get any extra assistance.
The maximum amount a single person on the pension can receive while sharing accommodation is $391 a week after tax.
"I realise this is an okay place, it's about five years old, but I just feel betrayed by the owner. I've done a lot of stuff around here for him."
She had kept the place in good nick, and had paid the installation costs for a heater in the bathroom.
There had been rental increases over the years she lived there, but usually only $10 or $20 at a time.
The new increase meant she would have no money to live on after paying her bills.
"I think it's totally outrageous and unfair. I'm devastated. I'm still trying to get my head around it."
The woman had tried to reason with the property manager and landlord, but was simply sent an email with links to three comparable rentals in the area that were being advertised for a similar price.
She felt the response was "rubbing salt in the wound".
"I could have accepted, you know, like $50," she said.
According to Tenancy Services, landlords can increase the rent on their properties as high as they like, as long as the correct notice period is given and the rent is not increased more than once every 12 months.
Tenants can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the rent reduced, but they must have evidence the rent they are being charged is much higher than the rent for similar houses in the same area.
The woman recognised the rent she was paying was low compared to other houses in the area, but was shocked it could be increased by so much at once.
"The owner knows I'm a pensioner. I just feel majorly betrayed."
New laws introduced in February provide renters with more protections and freedoms but do not limit how much rent can be increased in one go.
The changes include ending no-cause terminations, allowing tenants to make reasonable, minor changes to the home, and prohibiting rental bidding, among other things.
The laws have been met with outrage from some landlords, who say it makes it no longer worthwhile for them to fill their vacant properties.
New Zealand Property Investors Federation executive officer Sharon Cullwick said her heart went out to the woman.
"It's really hard at the moment. We know that rents are really expensive but we also know that legislative changes that are going through at the moment means that we can see more rent rises, I think, in the future," she said.
"I think you may find that quite a few property investors will actually decide to get out of the industry."
Not only could they only increase rent once a year, but they also couldn't increase it more than once a year if a new tenant came in.
This meant if someone was paying well below market rent, landlords were in a tricky spot if they wanted to bring the rental cost up to market levels, she said.
"I can't understand why there's so much legislation going on with landlords when it's really the shortage of houses that you need to be addressing.
"We do feel for tenants, we know that it's not fair on them. I don't know what we can do."