Housing Minister Phil Heatley says a register and regular inspections of boarding houses could be a good idea, amid concerns that some are unsanitory and unsafe.
Parliament's Social Services Committee was told on Wednesday that conditions in some boarding houses are questionable and tenants are too scared to speak up.
MPs were told regular inspections of registered boarding houses are needed to ensure they meet certain standards.
Researchers from the University of Otago's housing and health research programme, He Kainga Oranga, told the committee the current complaints system does not work because tenants risk being evicted.
Mr Heatley says on the face of it, registration would be sensible, but there would have to be clear lines about what size and kind of boarding establishments that should apply to.
MPs were also told tenants are often very poor and can have a range of mental and physical health problems.