Cost of renting continues to climb

The cost of renting has continued to climb, after reaching record highs in November, new figures from Stats NZ show in the past year rents have risen by more than three percent. 

While the number of rentals has seen an increase, demand is increasing even faster, making it difficult for prospective renters to secure a house.

Jamie Wehipeihana has been flat hunting in Wellington since November. 

"Honestly we've probably viewed 50 and applied way more than that through Trademe and Vic Deals."

Time is running out - her current tenancy ends in a week.  

"I'd say we're in a crisis at the moment if you look at all the people coming through here today and all other viewings we've been through. It's crazy the amount of people looking for a flat and in the same situation as us."

Property manager Harrison Vaughan says people are getting desperate. 

"People are always offering to do extra things, do extra gardening, do extra electrical work, extra building work things like that."

This huge demand for rentals is driving prices up. In November, the national median weekly rent hit $520, a 21 percent increase since 2015.

Wellington region had the highest rent, at $580 a week. That climbed to $595 a week in the central city, and in Porirua.

The rental market shows no sign of slowing down - Stats NZ figures released today reveal rent prices increased 0.2 percent from November to December last year and from December 2019 to December 2020 rents went up 3.1 percent. 

Rob Whittaker from Wellington Renters United says it's unfair: "There's a supply strain and landlords are exploiting that and taking advantage to get more money out of tenants. Tenant incomes aren't growing at the same rate."

A group representing landlords, New Zealand Property Investors Federation, says that's not the case. 

"I wish it was more money in the pocket but no it doesn't work like that, our costs have gone up. Everything like rates keep going up continually," says group member Sharon Cullwick.

A massive reform of tenancy laws comes into effect next month.

Landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants with 90 days notice, they will need "specific grounds" to get rid of renters.

Tenants will also be able to request fibre internet, and minor changes such as hanging curtains or installing a baby gate, with landlords unable to decline.

Rental bidding will also be prohibited.

"Landlords will be very very cautious who they put in their property, knowing it's not as easy to remove a tenant from a property," says Cullwick.

There are even reports of some landlords choosing to leave their homes empty to avoid these reforms - which could further deplete supply.