Government instructs Kāinga Ora to crack down on abusive and antisocial tenants

The Government has instructed Kāinga Ora - Homes and Communities to take stronger action against antisocial tenants - including terminating tenancies.

A joint letter from Housing Minister Chris Bishop and Finance Minister Nicola Willis to the board follows numerous reports of people being terrorised by their Kāinga Ora neighbours.

The organisation has come under heavy fire for failing to evict the worst tenants, instead leaving them in place.

The letter told Kāinga Ora to focus on its core functions:

  • Strengthening the management of disruptive tenants
  • Addressing a concerning escalation in rental arrears
  • Tenanting vacant properties as quickly as possible
  • Delivering new social housing places in line with targets
  • Delivering value for money in its spending and delivering savings as required

"New Zealanders are sick of hearing about terrifying and heartbreaking stories from neighbours of abusive and antisocial Kāinga Ora tenants. It's completely unacceptable that people should have to live in fear," Bishop said in a statement alongside the letter on Monday.

"As part of Kāinga Ora's focus on core functions we expect them to end their Sustaining Tenancies Framework, which has allowed tenants to stay living in a KO home no matter how threatening or disruptive their behaviour, or how much damage they cause to the property."

Bishop said there were "hundreds" of serious complaints about Kāinga Ora tenants every month over things like intimidation, harassment and threatening behaviour.

But despite this, he said only three tenancies were ended in 2023 due to "disruptive behaviour".

"Sustaining Tenancies has had exactly the effect you'd expect: there is no incentive for tenants to improve their anti-social behaviour or to stop deliberately damaging their taxpayer-owned house," he added.

"At a time when there are over 25,000 people on the social housing waitlist, Kāinga Ora should not be prioritising tenants who abuse their home or their neighbours above families who are anxiously waiting for a home."

This will be done by:

  • Strengthening management of disruptive tenants
  • Use of existing RTA tools including formal warning notices and relocations
  • Accelerating the process of tenancy termination for severe and persistent cases

The letter also told the board it is expected to focus on rental arrears accrued by tenants.

"Between 2017 and 2023, the total debt owed to Kāinga Ora by its tenants increased from $1 million to $21 million, and the number of tenants owing rent nearly doubled from 4248 to 9519. At the end of last year, more than 450 Kāinga Ora tenants each owed more than $10,000 in rent," Bishop said. 

"Kāinga Ora needs to address the current rental arrears issues and prevent future arrears from escalating."

Accordingly, Kāinga Ora has been instructed to:

  • Work with tenants who are in rental arrears to address this using the tools available as a landlord
  • Strengthen the approach to tenancy terminations for continued failure to pay

"We have sent this interim letter of expectations to make sure that Kāinga Ora is focused on the right things, right now," Bishop stated.

"We intend to issue an updated letter of expectations later this year in response to the independent review led by Sir Bill English, which will be reporting to ministers soon."