The money allocated in the Budget is to support timely access to tenancy and unit title dispute resolution services; processing of bond transactions; implementation of tenancy reforms; increased awareness of parties’ rights and responsibilities; and proactive monitoring and investigation of rentals to identify and address systemic non-compliance and reduce the risk of vulnerable tenants being exposed to harm.
Property Investors Federation president Andrew King says $16 million to be spent increasing investigations of rental properties to ensure healthy homes are realised is a total waste of money.
“Landlords are generally following the legislation and getting advice where they have failed inspections, many of them around heat pumps, which has become an issue.
“This is an area where landlords are having to rip out perfectly good heat pumps and install new or extra pumps to meet the Healthy Homes legislation only to find tenants don’t want them because of rising power bills, is a problem.”
He says the legislation doesn’t need more policing. Instead the money set aside could fund a lot of extra medical operations, new medicines from Pharmac and teachers in schools.
“It would be far better spent in these areas and do some good for the whole country.”
Making it simpler
An additional $5 million has been allocated to support the Tenancy Tribunal to manage increasing demand from changes to the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act.
King says it is only a drop in the bucket for running the tribunal.
He says the federation is going to make a stand in encouraging the Ministry of Justice to consider a centralised service where landlords can send information on rent arrears by email and have the case settled within five days. Instead of the seven weeks it now takes.
The majority of Tenancy Tribunal decisions are about rent arrears and King says if a simpler and efficient service was set up, it would free up court time for more serious cases, which can often take months to go through the tribunal.
He says this goes hand-in-hand with urgency for landlords who might have a tenant who has stopped paying rent but is still living at the property.
“In this situation landlords need a decision within five days, so they can reclaim their property and keep rent arrears to a minimum.”
Collecting rent arrears is also a major problem, says King.
“The tribunal has been able to obtain information on tenants from other government departments for some time, but enforcement has never gone any further.”
The budget also allocates $18 million for the tribunal’s operating expenses and $41.4 million over four years for “a non-controllable shortfall in bond interest revenue”.
Previously the centre was funded by interest from bonds lodged by property investors, but the low interest it receives has impacted this.
Capital expenditure of $20 million has been allocated to improve the tribunal’s ICT system to ensure its system for handling residential bonds is “stable, secure and supported and meets the service requirements and customer expectations”.