COMMENT: The ongoing fight for landlords’ rights
Saturday 18 April 2020
Proposed changes to tenancy law have left landlords fighting to retain the right to end difficult tenancies while students are fighting for the right to party, reports NZ Property Investors Federation executive officer Sharon Cullwick.
Covid-19 may have put a halt to most Parliamentary business, but not the passage of the Government’s proposed tenancy law reforms.
Verbal submissions are currently being made to the Social Services Select Committee which is looking into the proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act.
It hasn’t been widely reported on, but a section of the Act gives tenants the right to perform up to eight significantly disruptive acts a year.
And, as long as there are not more than two of these acts in any one three-month period, it will not be until the end of that year that their landlord can apply to have their tenancy ended with three months’ notice.
However, this new right does not go far enough for the NZ University Student Association.
Their National Vice President, Sam Smith, told MPs at the Select Committee hearing that these new rights are not strong enough.
“Many students are at a stage of their lives where they are discovering themselves, meeting new people, and experiencing life outside of their family home” said Smith. He said that it is reasonable for students to hold social events.
While the NZPIF also thinks it is reasonable for people to have social events as well, they can’t imagine that many people would want to live next door to anyone who has eight significantly disruptive parties a year.
But most New Zealanders don’t realise that this is some of what the Government is proposing to allow via its reforms to the existing tenancy law.
Currently, if neighbours of a tenant bring disruptive or antisocial behaviour to the attention of their landlord, the landlord can assess if the best course is to end the tenancy of that tenant with a 90-day no stated cause notice.
The landlord can protect the affected neighbours’ identity because they currently do not have to say why they are ending the tenancy. There is always the possibility of retribution if the neighbours’ identity is not protected in this way.
But the proposed new law states that neighbours will have to provide proof of three significant antisocial events over a three-month period before the landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for permission to end the tenancy after a further three months.
Some of the other submitters on the legislation claim that this proposed change is to provide security for tenants.
These submitters are of the opinion that many good tenants are being thrown out of their homes for no reason.
Yet this opinion is debunked by NZPIF research that shows only 3% of tenants each year are given a 90-day no stated cause notice.
In reality, there is no evidence that this tool of last resort is being misused by landlords. In fact, the evidence shows that it is used entirely appropriately to protect neighbours of severely disruptive tenants.
The proposed changes mean that affected neighbours will have to endure six months of a very unpleasant environment in their neighbourhood. The NZPIF does not want to see neighbourhoods affected in this way.
Not long before the lockdown began, the NZPIF started a petition to leave the RTA unchanged. That petition has now been signed by over 8,500 people and remains open. Those interested in signing can do so here.
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