A raft of changes being proposed by the government could mean a significant shift in the "power imbalance" between landlords and renters, the Green Party says.
Proposals outlined today by Minister of Housing Kris Faafoi include major revisions to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) making it harder for landlords to kick tenants out without a reason being given, as well as banning rental bidding.
The proposals also include limiting rent rises to once per year, up from every six months currently.
Landlords would not be able to seek the highest bidder for a rental property, or advertised properties with no price listed.
Mr Faafoi said landlords are currently able to end a tenancy without telling the tenant why, but his proposals include making it so that a valid reason must be given.
Those reasons include:
- If the owner wishes to put the property up for sale within 90 days of the tenant leaving the property.
- If the property is required for a purpose of a business, or the use of the property changes.
- Extensive alterations that would make it unpractical for the tenant to live at the property.
- The property is to be demolished.
- The landlord is not the owner of the property and their interest ends.
The reform also safeguards landlords if tenants are not meeting their obligations.
"We understand that landlords require clear guidelines, which help them protect their investment and assist them in their dealings with difficult tenants and the law ensures this," Mr Faafoi said.
"If a tenant acts irresponsibly there can be repercussions."
Under the new rules, tenants who have been at least five working days late with rent on three separate occasions within 90 days can be evicted once the landlord applies to the Tenancy Tribunal.
If a tenant was issued with three antisocial behaviour notices within 90 days, they could also be evicted if the landlord went to the Tribunal.
The reforms would give tenants increased freedom to add minor fittings like baby proofing, fire alarms, doorbells and hanging pictures.
Currently, tenants have to receive their landlord's consent and landlords weren't allowed to unreasonably withhold consent.
Tenants will still have to request permission to add those things, but landlords would only be able to decline for specified reasons.
Tenants have to pay for the installation and remove the fitting at the end of their tenancy.
Mr Faafoi said "greater security of tenancy and less regular rent increases, coupled with the ability to make minor improvements, mean renters will be better placed to make their house a home".
Notice periods would also be extended for both periodic tenancies and fixed-term tenancies.
Mr Faafoi said that "one third of all New Zealanders now rent and the previous Government neglected this new reality for nine years.
"I've heard horror stories of families forced to continually move house, damaging their children’s education by constantly changing schools," he said.
"Our changes are balanced, providing certainty to both parties about their respective roles and responsibilities."
The Green Party welcomed the proposals, saying they would move to tackle the "landlord-renting imbalance".
Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson said that the proposals should go even further.
"Housing is a fundamental right which means we need to guarantee safe, secure and affordable housing for everyone regardless of whether they rent or own," she said.
"We must go further to truly correct what has become a significant imbalance, effecting more and more New Zealanders every year.
"This includes properly resourcing the Tenancy Tribunal and ensuring the onus doesn't sit with under-resourced and time-poor tenants to initiate legal action if landlords are breaking the law."
The Green Party said they would like to see a compulsory rental property Warrant of Fitness so all houses are warm, safe and dry.