The People’s Review of Renting has highlighted a lack of enforcement of existing legislation, as well as areas in which existing legislation is inadequate. We recommend the following steps to improve conditions for New Zealand renters. Each recommendation is linked to one of the key themes of this report. However, the recommendations are designed to be mutually reinforcing so will be more powerful if introduced alongside each other.
GOAL 1: ALL RENTAL HOUSING IS WARM, HEALTHY AND SAFE.
- Introduce a mandatory rental Warrant of Fitness. Amend legislation to introduce a comprehensive, evidence-based Warrant of Fitness (WoF) as the minimum standard for all rental properties. This would include all public and private rentals, short-stay rentals and boarding houses. Allocate sufficient central government funding to resource local authorities to conduct inspections to enforce the WoF. Review the standard periodically. Consider providing funding for some of the necessary improvements.
GOAL 2: Everyone has affordable housing.
- Limit rent rises: Prohibit rent increases that exceed proportional increases in the national minimum wage.
- Abolish letting fees.
- Take a hands-on approach to the housing market to ensure adequate supply (and affordability) of all housing types. Introduce a tax on property speculation. Initiate a National Housing Strategy to ensure long-term adequate supply of housing across the housing spectrum, to take pressure off the private sector.
GOAL 3: People who rent are secure. They can create homes and report problems without fear of eviction.
- Abolish no-fault evictions. Amend legislation to make all tenancies permanent, except in circumstances where a fixed term is mutually agreed. Tenants should be able to give reasonable notice to end a tenancy (90 days or 21 days in case of hardship). Landlords should only be able to end the tenancy by mutual consent, or due to non-payment of rent or substantial deliberate damage to the property (with appropriate notice). When a rental property is sold the tenancy should transfer to the new owner as a condition of sale.
GOAL 4: People can successfully challenge illegal behaviour by landlords and property managers.
- Reform the Tenancy Tribunal to lower the barriers to access. Reform the Tribunal to an investigation rather than a confrontation model, including tribunal investigators who can investigate properties, interview parties and so on. Allow tenants to bring advocates who can speak on their behalf. To reduce fear of retribution for bringing cases, allow tenants to bring cases to the Tribunal without making their name public.
- Fund tenants’ education and advocacy services.
- Require all landlords and property managers to be licensed. Based on examples from numerous other sectors, establish a regulatory board consisting of representatives of renters, landlords and government. This board should create a code of conduct, oversee licensing landlords and property managers and consider complaints when they breach the code.
GOAL 5: The ongoing situation for people renting improves. The Tenancy Tribunal effectively upholds renters’ rights, regulations are enforced and periodically reviewed.
- Establish a Commissioner for Housing who will provide independent advice and oversight to Government and Parliament to ensure the human right to housing is realised for everyone living in New Zealand.