Rent advocacy group launch plan to 'fix renting' in NZ

A plan to improve renting conditions in New Zealand from Wellington-based Renters United has been welcomed by other advocacy groups.

Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association, Manawatu Tenants Union and Child Poverty Action Group are among those who have spoken out in support of the plan.

The organisations say change is urgently needed, with the current situation leading to sickness from damp and mouldy homes, laws that do little to protect tenant rights, a lack of stability and unaffordable rent hikes.

Renters United's plan is based around security for renters, limiting rent rises and improving the quality of properties.

It also calls for regulation of the industry and harsher penalties for law-breaking landlords and property managers.

"We do feel like visitors in our communities sometimes because we don't have that security and that does make us feel like second class citizens," said Renters United's Robert Whitaker.

Mr Whitaker said all of the policies relate, noting that a tenant that feels insecure in their rental is less likely to raise issues with their landlord around the quality of the rental.

"That's why we feel like we needed to set everything out and say this is a plan, this is how we can go about fixing all of this mess," he said.

Not all the policies are of the same urgency for implementation, he said, such as the policy to allow renters to keep pets.

He said making the sale of a house that doesn't include the transfer of a tenancy, or the landlord's family taking occupation illegitimate reasons to end a tenancy was an urgent priority, among others.

"It's a serious issue, it's been overlooked, we've been concentrating on the supply of housing which is obviously important but I would say the quality and regulation of private rental housing is just as important," University of Otago, Wellington public health professor Philippa Howden-Chapman said at the Renters United Launch.

Just under a third of the country's 574,000 rental properties are deemed to be poorly maintained, according to an independent report for the Government that Ms Howden-Chapman helped produce, A Stocktake of New Zealand's Housing, February 2018.

The report also found rents are starting to rise faster than wages, in some areas up to double the rate.

It concludes renting policy is well overdue and the absence or regulatory enforcement and demand outstripping supply means there's little incentive for landlords to maintain or improve the quality of a rental.

Wellington renter Ruby Gray is also adding her voice to the many calling for regulation of the industry after being told her previous flat's rent was going to increase from $560 to $720.

She ended up leaving the flat and feeling powerless.

"Landlords and property managers have such control over your life when your renting.

"It's pretty hard to make a home in a market that is like that," she said.

Ms Gray also wants to see increased education for tenants and landlords on the Residential Tenancies Act.

Renters United says defective homes and high rental costs need to change. Source: 1 NEWS