Michael Wood lashes out at National's 'cold-hearted' promise to allow evictions without reason, says it won't fix lack of housing

Michael Wood and Erica Stanford clashed over National's proposal to allow landlords to evict tenants without cause on Friday, with Wood accusing the Party of taking rights away from Kiwis. 

National revealed on Thursday it will scrap Labour's ban on evictions without cause and other rental regulations if it wins this year's general election. 

The Party's housing spokesperson Chris Bishop said if elected they will do away with the 10-year bright-line test and reintroduce interest deductibility for rentals.  

Bishop also revealed National will scrap the ban on landlords only being able to end tenancies for specific reasons, such as selling the house or overdue rent.

He said Labour's Residential Tenancy Act reforms had "waged a war on landlords" and claimed the changes backfired "by reducing rental supply and pushing up prices". 

Labour's changes came into force in February 2021 and Trade Me figures from last year actually show the supply of rentals grew while prices were either declining or stagnant. 

However the latest figures from Trade Me out on Friday morning show rents are back on the rise with demand continuing to outstrip supply.

Speaking with AM on Friday National MP Erica Stanford reiterated her Party's claim the changes have actually made things worse for tenants. 

"What we are talking about is just a return to what we had before. The Government was warned when they made changes that this would increase people needing a home and it would also increase rents, both of those things are true," Stanford told AM host Ryan Bridge.

"Rents are up $175 a week since they've gotten in. We've got 23,000 people on a housing waitlist, 3000 people waking up in a hotel every single day. 

"All we are saying is we think it's reasonable to bring the balance back, to swing that pendulum back and say to landlords, 'We want you to rent out your properties. We want you to take a risk on those people you potentially wouldn't have taken a risk on before' because we know now they are not. We think it's reasonable and fair to swing the balance back slightly in favour of landlords."

Rents have increased significantly in the nearly six years since Labour was elected. Median rents were sitting at $450 a week in September 2017. They have now reached a new record high of $600, increasing $60 since Labour's rental reform was introduced in February 2021 when the median weekly rent was $540.

Labour Minister Michael Wood, who appeared on AM alongside Stanford, hit out at National's proposal calling it "cold-hearted and unnecessary". 

"It won't fix any of the issues Erica has just talked about… We are not saying anything unreasonable here. Landlords have always got the ability to remove a tenant if there is a reason," Wood told Bridge. 

"We are simply saying they have to provide a reason so tenants can respond if there's a problem. I think most Kiwis would think that's a fair and reasonable thing." 

Wood said when you're taking away someone's home, it's reasonable to give them a reason. 

"That person has a right to respond and at the very basic level, know what the reason is. And sometimes that person might be able to say, 'Actually, here's another explanation. Here's what I'll do to fix it'. 

"We don't think that's unreasonable… and for the National Party to say you don't even have to give a reason for kicking a family out of the home is just utterly unreasonable."

Wood also said allowing landlords to kick tenants out without cause won't actually fix a lack of homes either. New Zealand's state housing waiting list has decreased over the past year after dramatic increases in the the years prior. As of December 31, 2022 there were 23,127 on the register - down 9.4 percent from a year prior.

Wood said the solution to a lack of houses is to build more, not take rights away from tenants. 

"All of the issues Erica has identified, it won't fix them. The reason we had a housing shortage is because enough houses weren't being built. There were 1200 fewer public housing places at the end of National's term than at the beginning. We've built 12,000 more. 

"The way we fix the housing crisis is building houses, not taking rights away from Kiwi tenants."

Wood said the changes would put good tenants at risk of being kicked out for no reason. But Stanford said "it's absolutely ridiculous" to suggest landlords would evict good tenants just because they can. 

"The issue that we have got… is it's really, really hard, almost impossible to get rid of tenants who are not ideal, who are creating noise and having their neighbours suffer, who are creating damage," she said. 

"It is really, really difficult to get rid of them. And what you're doing is scaring landlords out of the market. We've got to remember that over 90 percent, I forget the figure, but over 90 percent of rental accommodation is provided by the private market. It's those Kiwi mums and dads who have gotten investment property who are now terrified to rent out their property because you literally cannot get rid of people. 

"So the balance has swung too far that way. All we're saying is when you've got a bad tenant, you should be able to get rid of them." 

Wood said there is never an excuse for violent and antisocial behaviour from tenants but punishing all tenants because of them also isn't reasonable.