Housing Call to Action - 2nd draft of TPA's submission on RTA Reform document

Below is the second draft document by Tenants’ Protection Association (Auckland) (TPA) as a guide for those who wish to make a submission to the ‘REFORM OF THE RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES ACT 1986’.

SUBMISSION ON THE DISCUSSION DOCUMENT: ‘REFORM OF THE RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES ACT 1986’ by TENANTS’ PROTECTION ASSOCIATION (AUCKLAND) (TPA)

Tenants’ Protection Association (Auckland) (TPA) welcomes this document and the opportunity to have an input into it and its proposals.

We support the four objectives outlined on page 7 and encourage the implementation of a Warrant of Fitness (WOF) in all rental properties including (and especially) boarding houses.

TPA is very supportive of increased security of tenure and the proposal of a ‘just cause’ for termination on 90-day notices.We promote the removal of ‘fixed term’ tenancy agreements from the Act except in circumstances such as service tenancies, transition housing and emergency housing. There is no need for them as with a ‘just cause’ for termination a ‘periodic’ agreement adequately serves the purpose.‘Fixed term’ agreements have become common practice in recent years they have become favoured by property managers who have prioritised them over ‘periodic’ agreements.However, prior to the mid-2000s ‘periodic’ tenancies were the ‘norm’.If tenants are to make the house their ‘home’ and feel comfortable and secure in this, they do not need a termination date hanging over them, even one that is several years hence.

Boarding houses need further regulation and their tenants more protection.We would recommend that in boarding houses with twelve tenants or more, a ‘live-in’ manager be required to monitor the running of the establishment.Tenants in boarding houses also need to feel that their dwelling is their home’ and this would add security and safety to their experience.

We would also support the regulating of property managers to ensure standards are consistent and maintained throughout the private rental sector.

The following are our responses to the questions proposed:

MODERNISING TENANCY LAWS TO MAKE TENANTS FEEL MORE AT HOME

2.1.1Yes, this should be done in the first instance in order to give the tenant a chance to improve their behaviour as sustaining tenancies should be a priority.

2.1.2Yes

2.1.3Evidence should be required to be produced, such as photographs, letter/s, affidavit/s, audio recordings, video.It must be noted that some complainants may wish to remain anonymous and this should be protected.

2.1.4Certainly it would be a greater impact than 42 days, but once it became standard practice then the situation would adjust to become the professional norm and it is, after all, only another 6 weeks.

2.1.5No, leave it as in the current 42-day situation.Every reason should become standardised at 90 days which will quickly become the professional norm and the market will adjust accordingly.

2.1.6No, as the new owners may wish to continue renting the property.This should remain consistent with current practises.

2.1.7Yes, as then the reasons can be challenged at the Tenancy Tribunal and evidence produced to prove they are legitimate.Evidence would depend on the reason given but must be consistent with those cited in the RTA.

2.1.8Yes, exemplary damages should be applied.

2.1.9No, as tenants need to move quickly to secure alternative accommodation and due to current income levels generally cannot afford to pay double rent.This could leave tenants liable for serious unaffordable arrears charges.

2.1.10n/a

2.1.11n/a

2.1.12It would improve security of tenure, increase community stability as tenants would invest more in their neighbourhoods if they felt secure, enable tenants to make the house their home and generally enjoy their tenancies without the threat of random terminations hanging over them.

It would also curtail landlords from evicting tenants in order to increase the rent by getting new tenants in situations where they know their current tenants could not afford an increase.This will help to curb random ad hoc rent increases.

2.1.13We are not a current public housing provider but we would like to see HNZ cease the practise of issuing 90-day notices to tenants whose properties are being re-developed.These are causing unnecessary levels of stress as many people think they are being evicted not transferred, and panic.[We are also working along other avenues to try and get this changed.]

2.1.14The same notice periods should apply to public housing.

2.1.15‘Fixed term’ tenancy agreements have only become common post 2004.Prior to this ‘periodic’ agreements were the most common and so by removing ‘fixed term’ tenancies the situation could return to what was basically the ‘norm’ during the 20th century.‘Fixed term’ agreements have become popular with property managers as they make their work easier and so have moved into the realm of the fashionable ‘norm’.If ‘fixed term’ agreements were removed from the Act the problems surrounding them would cease and tenancies could be terminated using the termination procedures and reasons.

2.1.16n/a

2.1.17Yes, but ‘fixed term’ tenancies should be removed from the Act (see 2.1.15 above) then there would be no need for ‘renewal’ the tenancy would be on going.Over time the relationship between tenant and landlord could evolve to be one of professionalism and respect.

2.1.18No, not a good idea, instead see tenancies as on-going ‘periodic’.

2.1.19As ‘periodic’ long term tenancies became the ‘norm’ both parties, and especially landlords, would get used to it.Landlords would not lose anything as they still have meaningful enforcement in the other clauses under section 51 of the Act and via the Tenancy Tribunal.

2.1.20Yes, it will provide security of tenure for tenants, create stable communities, enable tenants to make the house their ‘home’ and therefore respect the tenancy and commit to it and the neighbourhood.

2.1.21Yes, as it allows uncertainty in the relationship between landlord and tenant, makes tenants feel insecure as the ‘fixed term’ expires and will not help long term in encouraging both parties to see tenancies as the tenants’ ‘homes’.

2.1.22Make sure that both tenants and landlords are aware of current and new rights and obligations under the legislation.These could be outlined on standardised tenancy agreement forms.

LANDLORD AND TENANT RESPONSIBILITIES

Tenant Responsibilities

2.2.1n/a

2.2.2Yes, if long term then care of the grounds and being able to paint and make minor adjustments in the tenancy: put pictures on the walls etc.

2.2.3It is already quite clear in the current Act.

2.2.4Care of the grounds and repairs to wear and tear and they should begin after two years.

2.2.5None all it will be in danger of becoming difficult to determine and tenants do not have specific expertise.

2.2.6Yes, no need to change.

Landlord Responsibilities

2.2.7They are clear but perhaps not understood and it depends on the experience, expertise and professionalism of the landlord.Many property managers do not understand and/or abide by them so regulating property managers would help to improve this.

2.2.8Maintenance on the outside of the dwelling such as clearing gutters, repairing roofs and damp, also faulty drainage is often over-looked.There needs to be heavier enforcement of these areas.

2.2.9The tenancy agreement needs to have a simple version of section 45 printed on it so that landlords cannot ignore their obligations.This would require tenancy agreements to be standardised.

2.2.10d/k

2.2.11More reinforcement is needed to get landlords to pay their Tribunal orders and the maximum for exemplary damages needs to be raised.All maximums should be reviewed.

2.2.12Landlords should be responsible for servicing heat pumps, ventilation systems and for sweeping chimneys.

2.2.13No, it is the tenant’s choice as they may not be able to afford to run the heating equipment due to high rents leaving little disposable income.

MODIFICATIONS TO RENTAL PROPERTIES

2.3.1Yes, we were able to paint the walls, put up our own window treatments and stayed there for nine years.

2.3.2n/a

2.3.3Yes, it should be the tenant’s responsibility to leave the tenancy the way the landlord requires it to be.

2.3.4It would depend on the modification, if it was extreme such as wall changes etc then, yes.But not for simple things like marks on walls where pictures have been or painting – cosmetic changes.

2.3.5Minor modifications should not be objected to.

2.3.6Yes, and it is a time length that is consistentwith other requirements in the Act and, therefore, easy for the parties to remember.

2.3.7Yes, especially if it involves electrics, gas or health and safety issues.

2.3.8Painting, wall hangings, window treatments, minor plumbing like taps like washers etc, minor electrics like power points and lights.

2.3.9Yes

2.3.10Option 2 as it is more comprehensive and, therefore:

·Achieves its objective

·Will make the house feel more like a home to the tenant

KEEPING PETS IN RENTAL PROPERTIES

2.4.1No, a reason should be required as tenants will feel more at ‘home’ if able to keep pets and should be given the courtesy of a reason.

2.4.2We were able to have cats, in fact had five of them and they caused very little wear and tear as they were content domestic felines.

2.4.3n/a

2.4.4n/a

2.4.5Large, feral and/or aggressive dogs that would cause problems in the neighbourhood.

2.4.6No, they should be allowed provided they are well looked after, do not cause damage or inflict problems on the property or the neighbourhood.

2.4.7Yes, high rise buildings with no outdoor space.

2.4.8In line with damage done by tenants or their associates.

2.4.9Yes

2.4.10n/a

SETTING AND INCREASING RENT

3.1.1No, as we only work with tenants already housed.

3.1.2It should be banned as it is unfair, has got out of hand and helps drive prices up.

3.1.3Option 2 as it is stronger and more transparent.

CHALLENGING RENT INCREASES AT THE TRIBUNAL

3.2.1No, 60 days would be a better time limit.However, we recommend that ‘fixed term’ tenancies be dropped from the Act (see 2.1.15 above).

3.2.2No, as proscribing rent levels is too arbitrary.

RENT INCREASES

3.3.1n/a

3.3.2Yes

3.3.3Yes, as it makes the process transparent and inhibits landlords fudging their obligations.

BOARDING HOUSES

4.1.1No, there is no security of tenure for tenants and this needs to be rectified.It is currently unclear what the local authorities’ by-laws are.If laid out in the RTA landlords’ obligations would be more transparent and they could be listed on the tenancy agreement where they are accessible to both parties.

4.1.2n/a

4.1.3Yes, there are so many in very bad condition and local authorities appear reluctant to monitor/regulate them.

4.1.4No, it is not strict enough.

4.1.5Both, but don’t include self-certification as it is open to misuse.

4.1.6Don’t use it.

4.1.7n/a

4.1.8Yes, as long as standards are well documented and consistent.A WOF criteria template [copy enclosed] could be modified for boarding houses.Currently standards are very poor.

4.1.9Costs should only be placed on landlords and government.

4.1.10A Warrant of Fitness (WOF), standardised and used throughout the country.

4.1.11Central government as local government has proved to be ineffective.Well-resourced compliance and enforcement is needed.

4.1.12Yes

4.1.13No, just those with six plus rooms as anything smaller than that is getting too much into the realm of domestic arrangements where it would be very difficult to regulate.

ENFORCING TENANCY LAWS

5.1.1Fear of eviction.

5.1.2Yes

5.1.3We reported a case to Compliance and Investigations.It took far too long – five months – and this could be partly due to under-resourcing.They failed to keep us up to date with progress, did not fully explore the issue (in our opinion) and we would be reluctant to use the process, as it currently operates, in the near future.

5.1.4Yes, if they are alerted to a problem, especially in terms of health and safety.

5.1.524 hours, the shorter the better, in order for managers/landlords to have time to patch/cover the problem up.No notice should be required for emergencies or extreme health and safety risks.

5.1.6Yes, if they require immediate action and on property managers that need to be bought up to standard.

5.1.7Yes

5.1.8The maximum for each breach and this should be cumulative.

5.1.9Yes, as it saves clogging up the Tribunal hearings and processes.

5.1.10Yes, if standards are not being met.

5.1.11The maximum on the schedule depending on the breach.

5.1.12Yes

5.1.13Yes

5.1.14Lack of maintenance leading to health and safety problems and conditions in relation to healthy homes.

5.1.15No, they are too low and they need to be regularly reviewed.

5.1.16Don’t know – perhaps this needs a separate review.

5.1.17Yes, as many people do not understand what ‘exemplary’ means.

5.1.18Yes, but the maximum should depend on the breach.

5.1.19No, it needs a time limit as evidence collecting can be difficult after too much time.


https://www.hud.govt.nz/residential-housing/tenancy-and-rentals/changes-to-the-residential-tenancies-act-1986/reform-of-the-residential-tenancies-act-1986/

Submissions must be received by 5pm on Sunday, 21 October 2018.

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