23 Aug 2017

Study calls for improved renters' rights

9:07 pm on 23 August 2017

A report on problems faced by people who rent their homes has found many landlords provide poor living conditions.

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Photo: 123RF

The report by ActionStation and Renters United collected more than 600 stories from renters around the country.

They included experiences of living in cold, unsafe, unhealthy, insecure and expensive properties.

Renter Jo Wright, 59, told the researchers she had been to the tenancy tribunal three times to fight for her rights because "agencies don't want to follow - or don't know - the rules".

"I'm looking down the barrel of being homeless".

Another renter, Renee Pearson, said she too had been close to being made homeless many times.

She said the state of some properties had shocked her.

"I lived in a flat with the walls so moist they started to crumble like feta cheese.

"This can't be legal."

The report set out five goals for policymakers:

  • 1. Ensure all rental housing is warm, healthy and safe
  • 2. Ensure everyone has affordable housing
  • 3. Ensure people who rent are secure - that they can create homes and report problems without fear of eviction
  • 4. Ensure people can successfully challenge illegal behaviour by landlords and property managers
  • 5. Ensure the ongoing situation for people renting improves, the Tenancy Tribunal effectively upholds renters' rights, and regulations are enforced and periodically reviewed

ActionStation campaigner Rick Zwaan said people who rent were left out of the housing crisis narrative, but hoped that by sharing tenants' experiences that would change.

"The reality of it is that landlords are running a business and they are making an untaxed profit at the moment," Mr Zwaan said.

"We've got to choose whether or not we are going to continue to support that or we're going to say: 'Actually no, it's time we put the balance of power in favour of people who are renting their homes and ensure those homes aren't going to make them sick'."

University of Otago professor of public health Philippa Howden-Chapman said renting was not seen as a public policy issue.

New Zealand Property Investors' Federation executive officer Andrew King said there could be room for some form of rental property licencing, but it would bring a cost that would likely be footed by tenants.

Mr King said tenants should not be fearful of their landlords or speaking out against them.

Renters United's Kate Day said those surveyed for the report were given the option to remain anonymous, which is what the majority chose to do.

She said that alone showed that people felt insecure.