Wrong time for new rental rules during 'housing shortage' - tenancy advocate

The Government's new standards for rental homes have come at the wrong time, a tenancy advocate says. 

Under new rental property rules announced on Sunday, landlords will have to provide a living room heater, an extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom, better insulation, a ground moisture barrier, adequate drainage, as well as draught-stopping tape.

And while the new standards have been welcomed by some, others are concerned about hitting rental property owners with thousands of dollars of additional compliance requirements, during a "housing shortage". 

Mike Butler, spokesperson for tenancy advocacy group Tenancies War, has claimed there is "not a crisis in the condition of rental property" and that the new standards could cost around $7000 per property. 

"Owners have three options: Absorb the extra costs, raise rents, or sell. Ask any accountant. Owners are selling. Then where will renters live?"

When Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford announced the new standards, he said current standards are impacting people's health, with "approximately 1600 mostly older New Zealanders" dying prematurely in winter. 

Mr Butler questioned the new requirements, in particular the additional insulation rule, saying it "looks like Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford has let the insulation industry write the rules". 

He also cited the Building Research Association of New Zealand's finding in a 2017 report that only 2.7 percent of renters felt their dwelling was cold and damp. It found that 82 percent of tenants were happy with their accommodation. 

However, the 2016 HRV State of Home Survey found that mould was prevalent in 48 percent of all homes rented, and that almost 40 percent of renters contacted their landlords about the cold, damp conditions of their homes. 

Mr Butler insisted there is not a crisis in the condition of rental property. There is a crisis in the availability of rental property, he said, and "Mr Twyford's extra compliance requirements will make this worse". 

In Auckland the housing shortage has been getting worse, according to recent calculations by interest.co.nz. The figures calculated in October suggested a shortage of 19,908 dwellings had accumulated over the five years to June 2018. 

However, it also found that while Auckland's annual population is still growing faster than new homes are being built, the "rate at which new homes are being built is increasing while the rate of population growth is declining". 

National leader Simon Bridges has also expressed concern over landlords having to absorb the cost of the new standards. He said that by "being kind" the Government was actually "being cruel" by passing on the cost to the "poor old renter". 

Mr Twyford has rejected that stance, saying the new standards are "pragmatic, enduring and don't impose an unreasonable burden on landlords and industry while being mindful that renters need to have warmer and drier homes as soon as possible".