Tenants to 'make their house a home' with new rental reforms

February 11, 2021

Associate Housing Minister Poto Williams (second from left) and Takanini MP Anae Dr Neru Leavasa (far right) with one of the tenants (second from right) at the Wattle Park housing development.

By Elijah Fa'afiu - elijah.fa'afiu@pmn.co.nz

New rental reforms will mean tenants can start to “make their house a home”, according to the Associate Minister of Housing, Poto Williams.

To mark the second phase of the Residential Tenancies Act coming into force today, Williams visited the Wattle Park housing development in Manurewa.

The new phase provides more security and power to tenants and Williams says tenants will be able to decorate their houses without landlord interference.

“Knowing that tenants themselves are able to make small changes to their homes, whether it’s putting up pictures, whether it’s hanging curtains or whether it’s putting up the baby-proofing when the little ones come along.”

Williams says the new reforms will allow tenants to build community life.

“You want to be able to put down roots, you want to be able to roll the kids into school and that they can have some sense of security of being able to stay in these communities.”

One aspect of the latest reform is that fixed-term agreements will turn into periodic agreements upon expiry, unless otherwise agreed by both parties, providing long-term security for tenants.

“It means that tenants no longer have the uncertainty of the fixed-term hanging over them, thinking that they’ll have to move every six months or every 12 months,” says Williams.

​New reforms makes "even playing field" - Pasifika renter

A Pasifika renter says the new reforms creates "an even playing field" between the tenant and the landlord.

RJ Clark, who has been renting for more than three years, says it's important for landlords to see eye-to-eye with their tenants.

"I understand that the power dynamic can be quite intimidating so I feel like with these new rules set in play it’s a bit easy for our people to have a bit more of an equal playing field. 

"As a renter myself, I think it’s always good to have a good relationship with the landlord, but sometimes when things get a bit tough, you might be a bit scared or afraid to ask for something that you as a renter deserve, so I think it does a lot for people who are renting."

Clark says it will be good for him to "feel more at home" with the new rules in place.

"I mean, you’re paying for a space per week, which really should mean that what you’re paying for is yours. I know at the end of the day it’s the landlord’s property, but if you’re paying for it, you treat it as if it’s yours, so I think this reform should allow people to be more at peace and feel more at home, at home."​

The following are the main changes of the Residential Tenancies Act:

  • Landlords will need a proper reason when they end someone’s periodic tenancy. Currently, they do not
  • All fixed-term tenancy agreements will automatically move onto a periodic tenancy, unless otherwise agreed
  • Tenants can make minor changes (painting the walls, hanging up picture etc) and landlords can’t refuse
  • Rental property adverts must show a price, to avoid bid-offs between renters which drives prices up
  • Tenants can request fibre broadband, and if it’s of no added cost to landlords, they can’t refuse
  • Successful applicants at the Tenancy Tribunal can now apply to have name suppression so they won’t be blacklisted
  • Landlords must consider all tenancy assignment requests, and not decline them unreasonably
  • Landlords must provide a tenancy agreement in writing
  • The regulator (the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) will be granted new powers to take action against parties not meeting their obligation
  • The Tenancy Tribunal can now impose fines of up to $100,000 where previously the maximum fine was $50,000

Labour MPs Anae Dr Neru Leavasa (third from left) and Poto Williams (third from right) at the Wattle Park housing development in Manurewa.