Firstly, landlords are always in a powerful position in relation to tenants as there is no security of tenure. Under the Residential Tenancies Act a landlord can issue a 90-day notice without a reason and this cannot be challenged at the Tenancy Tribunal. So unless a tenant can prove "retaliatory action" there is absolutely nothing they can do except leave. If a "just cause" was included in the Act then a reason would have to be given for the 90-day notice and this could be challenged at the Tenancy Tribunal if the tenant considered it unfair, unjust or unnecessary.
Secondly, we in NZ need to change the culture and attitudes towards tenants and renting. Historically people rented as part of a life stage, frequently in their 20s and early 30s until they were able to save a deposit on a house, or were in a position to "settle down". Today this has changed and many people across classes and ages will remain renters throughout their lives, as a result of the increase in house prices. This is especially pertinent to large cities and Auckland in particular.
In order to accommodate this, the culture around renting needs to change. For example, a renter needs to be able to feel that their dwelling is their 'home' and a home for an indefinite period. Renters should be able to decorate their dwellings to suit their taste, to plant gardens without landlords restricting them, to not have landlords visiting them frequently (which is common) and to feel that they will be secure in a dwelling without the threat of a "reason-less" 90-day notice hanging over them. The general public perception of renters needs to change to accommodate this and renters should not be seen as "only renting" which is currently a common perception. European countries can be cited as models of what type of rental nation we should be aspiring to.
• Angela Maynard, coordinator Tenants Protection Association (Auckland)
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