Landlords have hit back a new tenancy law reforms, saying the latest rules will make it harder to evict anti-social tenants.
Landlords will no longer be able to get rid of tenants without reason, under law changes announced today by Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi.
They say the law change will make it much harder for landlords to get rid of unsavoury renters, which will also affect neighbours of bad tenants who will have to put up with them for longer.
But the Green Party says it shifts a power imbalance from the landlord to tenants.
At present, landlords can give a tenant 90 days' notice without having to provide a reason and 42 days' notice in some circumstances, such as landlords or their family wanting to move in, or if the property has been sold.
Tenants have to give only 21 days' notice.
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The Government plans to remove the right of landlords to end a tenancy under a bill next year to amend the Residential Tenancies Act.
It also plans to increase notice periods for some specified reasons.
Anti-social behavior and rent arrears will still be cause for eviction notices but the Government is proposing to require the landlord to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal in such cases.
Not only that, but the landlord will be required to produce evidence of having issued three notices of such behavior or arrears having occurred within a 90-day period. A summary of the changes:
• Remove the right of landlords to give 90 days' notice without cause;
• Specified reasons for terminating tenancy to include the landlord intending to make the property for sale within 90 days of the tenant leaving; extensive alterations be carried out; and changing use of the property.
• Require landlords to go to Tenancy Tribunal to end tenancies for anti-social behavior or rent arrears;
• Require landlord to produce notice of three offending examples of anti-social
• Notice period for landlord or family to live in the property increased from 42 days to 63 days, and the new occupation must be for at least 90 days.
• Notice period for when a property has been sold increased from 42 days to 90 day;
• Limit rent increases in a tenancy to one per year;
• Require a rent to be advertised and ban prospective tenants bidding for rents;
• Tenancy Tribunal to suppress the names of successful tenants taking cases to the tribunal – to avoid future landlords discriminating against them;
• Landlords not able to withhold permissions for tenants able to install reasonable fixtures and fittings so long as it is returned to original conditions and the cost it met by the tenant;
• Changes the basis on which fixed-term tenancies revert to periodic tenancies and relevant changes notice periods.
• New infringement regime to be introduced for straightforward breaches of the Residential Tenancies Act;
• Existing penalties under the act for exemplary damages to be increased by up to 80 per cent;
• Tenancy Tribunal to hear cases and make awards of up to $100,000 instead of $50,000.
The New Zealand Property Investor Federation said the proposed changes to no-cause terminations would do more than punish landlords.
"They will punish anyone living next to a tenant with anti-social behavior," executive officer Andrew King said in a statement.
The federations says it has researched the use of the 90-day notice period. It says that 3 per cent of tenants receive a 90-day notice (without the landlord having to give a reason) and that nearly half of those notices were for anti-social behavior affecting neighbours.
"That is approximately 7000 tenants causing problems for up to 70,000 households."
It said the requirement to go to the Tenancy Tribunal with evidence of three cases of anti-social behavior having occurred within a 90-day period was trying to provide landlords with a tool to manage anti-social tenants.
"However it requires neighbours to put themselves at risk of retaliation from their anti-social neighbours."
Peter Lewis, the vice president of the Property Investors Federation, said the Government's reforms will make it harder to get rid of bad tenants.
They will have to go to the Tenancy Tribunal, where there were already delays, and then produce evidence from the police, council, or neighbours who might be reluctant if the bad neighbours were menacing or intimidating.
Lewis believed the Government assumed that every landlord wanted to get rid of a tenant.
"Most landlords, including me, aim to have every property we own rented out for every day of the year. We don't go throwing people out for no reason. There's actually no such thing as a no-reason clause. It's a no-stated-reason clause. You don't have to give a reason."
The changes are being promoted as giving tenants greater security as the number of households renting increases – about 32 per cent now compared with 25 per cent about 20 years ago.
Faafoi said he had heard "horror stories" of families forced to continually move house, damaging their children's education by constantly changing schools."
With more and more people renting, the law should provide enough security to responsible renters to put down roots in their community, Faafoi said.
"Greater security of tenancy and less regular rent increases, coupled with the ability to make minor improvements, mean renters will be better placed to make house a home."
Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson who lives in a rented house with her family in Manurewa says the changes rebalance power from landlords towards tenants and were long overdue.
"These changes are about making sure that renting is not just a second class citizen option, that renting needs to be a genuine dignified option for people because more and more of us are doing it today."
She was proud that the Government was shifting the power balance between landlords and tenants.
Commenting on the new requirement to take anti-social tenants to the Tenancy Tribunal instead of issuing them with a 90-day notice she said the right balance had been struck between enabling landlords to protect their properties and tenants being evicted "willy-nilly."