Tenancy law reform to make "life better for renters" says govt

By Moana Makapelu Lee
  • Wellington

The government has announced proposed changes to rental laws that will see an end to no-cause tenancy terminations, a 90 day notice increase for landlords to terminate tenants and a limit in rent increases to once a year. 

The government say they want to make “life better for renters” with renting becoming a long term reality for many families in New Zealand.

Today Housing Minister Phil Twyford and Greens Co-leader Marama Davidson launched a discussion document on reforming the Residential Tenancy Act they hope will give more security for tenants.  

The government is asking for feedback from tenants and landlords to have their say on the proposals to improve the tenancy laws.

Twyford told media in Wellington, "There's little doubt that our tenancy laws in NZ are out of date."

Davidson says, "Over 50% of Māori live in a rental property so this is really important.  We're having a discussion about how to make life better for renters.  At the moment that balance is out of whack and the power is far too skewed to landlords."

The government is looking to examine whether changes to fixed-term agreements could improve security of tenure. "Rent bidding" could also be out the door.

Davidson says, "Having secure tenancy where whānau can put down their roots, make relationships and connections in their community is really important."

New Zealand's most common length of tenancy is 12 months.  Davidson says parents and children are bearing the burden of uplifting every year.  She says a school in her area of South Auckland had a 60% transient roll.

"Disproportionately it is people on low incomes, it is women, it is Māori and Pacific [Islanders] and it is people with a disability."

National housing spokesperson Judith Collins is criticising the reform, saying it won't solve any problems.

“By limiting rent increases to once a year, landlords will be forced to raise rents higher and sooner, meaning tenants will actually be paying the same or more in the long run.

“If a landlord now wants to sell their property, they will have to wait 90 days, meaning settlements of sales will be extended by double.

“But if the tenant leaves the property before the 90 days is up, the landlord will end up with an empty house waiting for a buyer.”

Consultation runs for eight weeks.