Five ways you're breaking your tenants' hearts, souls and wallets

  • 07/09/2019

OPINION: Renting. It's a part of life, and for Millennials, it's a big one. 

People aged 20-35 are far more likely to rent than own a house, according to a Massey University report on the New Zealand rental sector.

Probably because the generation before them ruined the housing market and now Millennials have to pay hundreds of dollars a week in rent to fund their landlord's Ibiza trip.

It's no secret young people are disenfranchised - if you listen to the Baby Boomers, Millennials are lazy, entitled snowflakes who don't want to work hard so they can afford their own house.

They live at home with their parents and they grizzle and moan about how hard life is.

They're killing casual dining, mayonnaise, handshakes, the diamond industry, and of course, they're killing the housing industry too.

But while they kill off everything Baby Boomers hold dear, landlords are killing renters' souls with high rent, mouldy homes and weird intrusive rules.

So here are five things you could be doing as a landlord that really annoy your tenants.

Getting upset over tenants literally just existing in a space

Not every tenant is going to be perfect - there are always bad eggs. But for the most part, people who rent a house just want a place to go home to after working 12 hours for minimum wage. They're probably not throwing wild, raucous parties, because if they were, you'd know about it.

So if there's normal wear and tear on your property, don't immediately assume your tenant is doing it out of spite. A good rule of thumb is, if you'd fix it in your home, you should fix it in the one you rent out.

Surprise visits

The relationship between landlord and tenant is not one conducive to showing up unannounced.  

Tenants already feel powerless, and having their landlord peep in their window without warning doesn't help.

"At my old house, [the landlord] showed up unannounced and walked around the property taking photos through the windows and tried to come in," said one man.

"It was honestly so awkward."

It's not only awkward, but it's also illegal. 

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 says landlords may not enter the premises without the express consent of the tenant, or at least two days' notice unless the house is literally on fire. It also gives tenants the right to quiet enjoyment - essentially being left alone.

"The tenant shall be entitled to have quiet enjoyment of the premises without interruption by the landlord or any person claiming by, through or under the landlord or having superior title to that of the landlord," reads the Act.

It takes zero effort to send a text a couple of days before and ask for permission to come and look at the house and it makes all the difference.

Mould blaming

One third of New Zealand homes have mould in them. We live in a damp country. It is what it is. 

Tenancy Services says landlords should consider options that allow a tenant to ventilate the house while keeping it safe and secure - if you don't do this, you put your tenants in a tough position. 

It's unpleasant to live in a mouldy home and it's arguably more unpleasant to live in a mouldy home that's been robbed because you have to keep the windows open.

"Our landlord told us the reason we had black mould on our ceilings was because we weren't opening the windows often enough, in the middle of winter," said one Auckland woman.

"Then they said it wasn't their fault New Zealand builds damp houses."

It's not the landlord's fault New Zealand houses are damp - and it's not the tenant's fault, either. But if the house has mould, it can cause chronic health issues. 

Another Wellington woman told Newshub she lived in a house which was so damp, her flatmate would often sleep in the lounge because her room was making her sick.

"As soon as summer ended, we realised we had a problem," she said.

"There was a hole in the bedroom floor which was carpeted over, but it led pretty much straight outside. So in the winter, you'd walk into the room and your socks would just get soaked. One morning she woke up, and her bed sheets were damp, and that's when we knew we had to move."

Refusing to fix damage

One Wellington woman said the fence in her back garden was slowly falling over. She called her property manager to let them know the situation, and nothing was done. 

A month later, the fence came down entirely, leaving her garden with no privacy and difficult access.

Another month passed and the landlord came round to view the damage and said they would send a builder. 

Yet another month and the fence had been torn down completely, but the issues weren't fixed.

"They tore it down but left all the wood, all the soil, everything. The garden is just covered in mud and we can't use it but the property manager told us it doesn't matter because it's winter anyway so why would we need the garden," she told Newshub.

"The thing is though, they've told us we can't dry clothes inside, but we don't have a dryer and we can't use the washing line. There's been no contact from the landlord at all so we don't know what to do."

Unnecessary threats

"A sense of powerlessness over how long tenants may be able to stay in their rental accommodation, and for many tenants, the multiple moves required to stay housed was an important driver of people's desire to buy a home," reads the report.

The landlords interviewed for the rental sector report were quick to distance themselves from "slum landlords" and "greedy speculators".

However, it was acknowledged these landlords do exist. And from conversations had with young people, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of landlords threatening tenants with eviction. And it's unacceptable.

"I asked my landlord why my rent had gone up as no repairs had been made to the house and there were huge gaps in the windows letting in cold air," one woman told Newshub.

"I got a reply saying basically they were great landlords but the relationship went both ways and I needed to be a good tenant in return. We had never had any issues in our relationship, so this was kind of confusing for me. Then they told me they had a huge list of people waiting who were desperate to move in, It just made me feel super insecure in my own home."

The majority of young people cannot afford to buy their own homes, and renting is the only option. It's not a choice, it's a necessity. Millennials aren't lazy, they're vulnerable. 

So if any of these things have rung any bells, consider the fact that you are profiting off their vulnerability, and try and cut them some slack.

* All names have been redacted for this article, as no one wanted to anger their landlords in fear of being kicked out of their homes.