The Green Party has announced a policy that would introduce a mandatory landlord registration programme.
The "landlord licence" would include that the landlord be a "fit and proper person, that they not have 'demerits' from bad past behaviour and that their houses pass a housing warrant of fitness".
"An annual licence fee of $50, around $1 a week, would cover the register's costs and provide revenue to fund other improvements to the rental market," the Greens said in a statement on Sunday.
Currently, there is no system recording the number of landlords in New Zealand. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates there are around 130,000, while the Property Investors Federation suggests 270,000.
"In New Zealand, taxi drivers have to be certified and registered just to be able to give someone a ride, but landlords don't, even though their product has much more influence over peoples' quality of life."
Green Party leader James Shaw said "over half of the population is now renting and they deserve the same standards as people who own a home".
"People who rent should have security so they can put down roots and benefit from being able to participate in their community."
The Green Party policy references improved rental standards with the introduction of landlord licensing in the United Kingdom.
This comes as part of the party's "Every house a home" policy, which includes eight other measures to "make life better for the thousands of New Zealanders who rent their homes".
One of these measures is the introduction of landlord maintenance bonds. This would see landlords setting aside the same amount of money their tenants pay in bond at the beginning of a tenancy. This money would be accessed, when required by the Tenancy Tribunal, to fund any overdue maintenance and repairs.
"This will restore some balance and make sure that all landlords are meeting their responsibilities of providing a safe, warm, dry home to the people paying for them," the Green Party said.
Other measures in the policy include:
- Upgrading insulation standards and restoring Warm Up NZ insulation subsidies
- Reforming the Tenancy Tribunal to be less adversarial
- Funding FlatMates - a nationwide tenancy advocacy coordination office
- Making reasons for rent increases transparent and limiting increases to once a year
- Removing the obligation on tenants to pay letting fees
- Normalising secure tenancies with three-year standard terms and a right of renewal, and allowing tenants to make minor modifications that can be easily undone.