Green Party's Tamatha Paul says tenancy changes prove Government 'does not care about renters'

The Green Party says the Government's new rental changes prove "it does not care about renters, which is a majority of people in Aotearoa".    

On Thursday, Housing Minister Chris Bishop announced an overhaul of the tenancy laws - including reintroducing 90-day no-cause evictions and making several changes to notice periods in a move meant to "encourage landlords back to the rental property market".      

The changes mostly affect periodic tenancies and include reintroducing 90-day "no cause" terminations, returning landlords' notice periods for ending a tenancy to 42 days under certain conditions and returning tenants' notice to 21 days. The Government is also reintroducing landlords' ability to give notice to end a fixed-term tenancy at the end of the term without requiring a specific reason.   

While Bishop said the changes will encourage more landlords into the market and put downward pressure on rents, the Greens see it differently.    

Party housing spokesperson Tamatha Paul slammed the changes, saying they give the majority of New Zealanders "little hope".     

"We have a Government that thinks it is running a company not a country, and treats housing as a business. 

"Housing is a human right, and every person deserves a warm, safe and affordable home, whether they own that home or not."   

She accused the Government of being "pro-self-interest" and not for tenants. 

"Homeownership rates in New Zealand have drastically reduced over the past three decades, with more and more children growing up in rental housing and more and more elderly New Zealanders struggling to make ends meet while paying high rents," Paul said.    

"In particular, in Aotearoa today Māori are more likely to rent than own their homes, despite being tangata whenua."   

She said no-cause evictions are a constant reminder to tenants that they are "at the whim of their landlord".    

"It means constantly being on edge about whether you are secure in your home or not.    

"Removing tenants' right to renew their lease at the end of a fixed term means that people will be moving houses every year. If we want renting to be seen as a long-term, viable option in Aotearoa, as it is in many countries with greater housing security, then we must make sure that renters can see their house as a home."   

Paul added she is constantly hearing horror stories from tenants who were kicked out of their home for something as simple as putting blue tack on the walls.    

"It completely unsettles people just trying to live their lives and it can be distressing for children who are displaced from the communities they know and the schools they go to.    

"The playing field is uneven and these changes to tenancy rules further tip the balance in favour of landlords.   

"In New Zealand, we have a mega-landlord Prime Minister and we have a Government made up of landlords. What we are seeing is politicians serving their own interests.   

"If the Government were serious about improving things for renters, they would be building more public housing - not making it easier to kick people out," she said.    

But in his announcement, Bishop said the changes are about improving conditions for landlords who he said left the market during the Labour Government's "war" on them.    

"The previous Government waged a war on landlords. Many landlords told us this caused them to exit the rental market altogether. 

"It caused worse outcomes for tenants: rents up by $170 per week since 2017, the social housing waitlist increasing by about 20,000 families and thousands of families living in emergency housing motels.   

"Our Government is making sensible pro-tenant changes to the Residential Tenancies Act to help increase the supply of rental properties."    

Bishop said the changes will make it easier for "mum and dad landlords to be part of the rental property market".     

He added it will increase the supply of rental properties and apply "downward pressure to rents".     

"These changes are part of the Government's plan to create a well-functioning rental property market, which itself is part of the wider plan to solve New Zealand's housing crisis," Bishop said. 

"We've heard from many landlords that, without the backstop of 90-day 'no cause' terminations, they were unwilling to take a chance on a tenant who may, for example, not have perfect references or a steady 9-5 job."    

He said the Government is committed to ending New Zealand's housing crisis as part of its plan to "get the economy back on track, restore law and order and deliver the public services New Zealanders deserve".    

"To end New Zealand's housing crisis, we need to use every tool we have to increase supply. These changes, along with restoring deductibility for mortgage interest on residential investment properties, are part of the Government's plan to encourage landlords back into the rental property market to increase the numbers of rental homes available."    

The Government will introduce a Bill to Parliament making these changes in May, with the adjustments expected to come into effect in early 2025.