'KFC test': Calls for regulation of property managers after demands for bank statements

  • 08/08/2018

There are calls for regulation of property managers after one admitted she demands to see prospective tenants bank statements.

Auckland-based property manager Rachel Kann told a Social Services Select Committee she routinely asks for bank statements, and uses that information to decide whether to let a property.

"I don't just want to put a tenant into a property and no sooner have they been put in they can't afford the rent," Ms Kann told the select committee.

"They're paying somebody's mortgage and I see a lot of people who are low socio-economic and their bank statements literally will read, 'KFC, McDonalds, the dairy, KFC, McDonalds, court fine', trucks that they buy, goods that they can't afford. You know, I see a lot of mismanagement of money."

NZ First MP Darroch Ball provided NZME with an audio recording of the comments and said he was stunned by them.

Mr Ball is now calling for an investigation into the practice of prospective tenants being asked to hand over bank statements.

"It is clear we have some morally-bereft landlords and property managers unnecessarily sifting through private information," he said.

"The vulnerable, poor, young and desperate are being forced into forgoing their privacy in order to have the chance to secure a property."

Lobby group Renters United told The AM Show the practice is discriminatory and more regulation is needed in the industry.

"It is an invasion of tenants' privacy under the Residential Tenancies Act discrimination is prohibited," spokesperson Kate Day said.

The Independent Property Managers Association told NZME new immigrants often offered up the statements without prompting as it was common practice overseas, but Consumer NZ head of research Jessica Wilson said she had seen no evidence of this.

She echoed Ms Day's comments, telling RadioLIVE's Morning Talk with Mark Sainsbury there are plenty ways to check the character of a prospective tenant.

She said landlords can request a reference check or ask for proof of employment and are protected by the bond paid when the tenant moves in.

Conversely there is no requirement for a property manager to pass any kind of good character test.

"We've been getting more complaints about this type of information being requested, really quite personal information," she said.

"Property managers who don't face any sort of regulation themselves, so really they're not subject to any good character test."

Real Estate Institute of NZ CEO Bindi Norwell said property managers can and should look into tenants for clients, but the focus needs to be only on whether the tenant can pay rent.

"It's important that property managers carry out due diligence on behalf of their clients (landlords), but the focus needs to be around ascertaining whether a tenant has stable employment and can pay the rent," she said.

"Not whether they spend their disposable income on KFC or Uber Eats."