National and Labour are planning a post-election shake up of the $50 billion apartment sector, dogged by disputes, power struggles, lax governance, lack of pre-purchase disclosure, poor maintenance and management plans and financial issues.
Whoever wins on Saturday, the rules governing where around 100,000 Aucklanders live will change significantly.
Nick Smith, Building and Construction Minister, and Phil Twyford, Labour housing spokesman, this week vowed to amend the Unit Titles Act, following Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye's big push on the issue in the summer of 2016.
Last year, Smith said he would introduce changes by August this year but that never happened. Many in the sector are questioning why the long-awaited reform has not gone ahead.
Colliers International last month identified 4000 new Auckland apartments on the rise and a year ago, the sector's value was estimated to be around $50b. David Watt of the Body Corporate Chairs' Group says Auckland has at least 45,000 to 50,000 residential multi-unit apartments, home to more than 100,000 people.
"It's not one of the most exciting issues on the election campaign," Smith said this week, "but the importance of unit title law reform is we are expecting a doubling in the next 20 years of the number of people living in unit title properties. As part of the broader housing reform programme, this is one of the next steps we need to take for apartment and townhouse living."
National intended pre-Christmas changes and officials had already reported back, Smith said.
"If National is privileged to lead the next Government, our intention would be the exposure draft in October and have the Unit Titles Amendment Bill introduced to the House before Christmas. If we are privileged to be in Government, we will be consulting on the expose draft bill next month."
Twyford also wants change: "We support reform of the act to update the rules on bodies corporate, giving more transparency and accountability and properly funded asset management plans"
The act's governance provisions were too weak and there was a problem around long-term maintenance plans, Twyford said.
He said the act was not fit for purpose and a number of alarming cases had illustrated that, particularly defects around requirements for properly funded long-term maintenance plans and weaknesses in the governance requirements for body corporate managers.
The spotlight had gone on these problems with major weathertightness repairs to blocks which were shoddily built, Twyford said.
Smith said the reform was an area where detail mattered a great deal. Key policy changes would overhaul pre-purchase disclosure so people knew what they were buying, clarify rules of body corporate managers, provide greater rigor around the building maintenance plans with a differential for larger complexes and improve the dispute resolution system, Smith said.
The Tenancy Tribunal would have its jurisdiction extended into the unit titles' sector and the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation's powers to investigate would also be extended, he said.
Kaye said this week: "I am pleased that we have committed to progress legislation by the end of the year. I think it really important for people to have confidence in issues like disclosure and capital maintenance plans for apartments and units.
"It's another important step in ensuring we have a diverse range of affordable housing options for Aucklanders. As MP for Auckland Central I have worked hard to ensure we have change on these issues."