Thursday, February 11, 2021

Kate Hawkesby: Will new rental rules fix more problems than they create?


Today the new rules for landlords come in. It’s something they’ve had plenty of warning about, something tenants should also be across in term of understanding their new rights.

And it just makes me wonder how much smooth sailing we’re in for here versus choppy waters.

The tenancy tribunal must be bracing itself as I imagine there’ll be a raft of issues potentially being sheeted their way to be tested. Many landlords too will be holding their breath.

Will their tenant suddenly want to paint the walls? Hang pictures? Replace curtains? What sort of look will they be giving the landlord’s property?

Landlords have been complaining well in advance of these new rules that it gives tenants too much control over the place, that it takes away the ability of the landlord to manage their own property in a way they see fit.

For example if a landlord doesn’t want their property having green walls, picture hooks and nails banged in everywhere and curtains taken down, then that’s just tough luck, the tenant is calling those shots now.

But there are good bits to the new rules; insulating properties properly is well overdue, taking the exorbitant bidding wars out of the rental pricing process is well overdue.

I don’t mind putting heat pumps into a rental property either, the concern is just whether the tenant actually uses them because sometimes running a heat pump is unaffordable on top of all their other costs.

Dampness and mould in rental properties is concerning, and I’m sure many landlords would love tenants to open windows and doors more often but the reality is not everyone is home all day to do that.

So often rental properties are shut up, which is not ideal. Will having a heat pump and some decent insulation installed fix this? I’m not sure, not if the tenants aren't turning it on anyway.

There’s also talk of landlords leaving the game, selling up, giving up being landlords. I’ll be interested to see some actual stats on that versus just the talk, it’s one thing for people to say I’ve had enough I’m out, and for them to actually then go through with selling their rental portfolio.

I guess more properties on the market for first home buyers could be an upside of that, but fewer rental properties available has an undesirable knock on effect for housing which many would argue is already in crisis.

Emergency housing can’t just magic up out of nowhere, and the emergency housing we already have is less than desirable. So how dramatic these changes will be and who will be impacted the most, will likely become apparent in a tangible way over the next few weeks and months.

You can bet the media will be watching and waiting like hawks for those stories to unfold. Let’s just hope the law changes do what they’re supposed to do, which is fix more problems than they create, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.

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