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Neighbours at risk from uncontrollable tenants

Government is looking at changes to tenancy law that will make it harder for rental property providers to manage unruly tenants, many of whom make their neighbours' lives hell.

Currently, landlords can end a tenancy with 90-days’ notice to the tenant, without having to provide a reason. It has been perceived that this means tenants are being kicked out of their rental properties for “no reason”, however this is never the case. We want good tenants to stay in our properties as long as possible. Ending a tenancy is not done lightly.

The change is being considered because of pressure from some Tenant groups. They believe that tenants should have a right to know why their tenancy is ending so they can dispute the reason at the Tenancy Tribunal and remain in their property. They claim that the 90-day notice hangs over the heads of all tenants and prevents them from having security of tenure.

However, a NZPIF survey has found that the notice is not often used and is done so as a last resort when proof of a tenant’s poor behaviour is difficult or impossible to obtain. If the notice is disputed at the Tenancy Tribunal, the adjudicator will need to see proof to allow the termination notice to proceed.

The survey showed that 77% of 90-day notices were given because of poor tenant behaviour. The other 23% were for selling the property or undertaking significant repairs or renovations to the property.

The main reasons for issuing the notices were antisocial behaviour and disturbing neighbours, which accounted for 42% of all notices. Respondents said that it was difficult to prove the antisocial behaviour as it occurred randomly or other affected tenants and neighbours were not willing to put their concerns in writing.

An Official Information Request has revealed that Government doesn’t know how many 90-day notices are issued to tenants. The NZPIF survey found that only 3.1% of tenants are issued a 90-day notice each year meaning nearly 97% of tenants are unaffected by these notices.

Rather than providing tenants with security of tenure, removing the 90-day notice provisions would benefit just the 3.1% of tenants who are causing antisocial behaviour, disturbing neighbours or damaging property. The current system has been working well for over thirty years. Its removal will prevent landlords from effectively managing poorly behaving tenants to the detriment of other tenants and neighbours.

There is already proof that removing the notice provisions will cause problems. Under the Governments “Sustaining Tenancies” policy, Housing New Zealand (HNZ) has been instructed not to use the 90-day notice. Since then the number of HNZ tenants causing problems for their neighbours and communities has increased. Some of these cases are extreme, such as the Motueka Street that neighbours described as “a domestic war zone” because HNZ could not use the 90-day notice provisions.

This is not just a matter for landlords and tenants. Anyone living next to a rental property could be affected if this notice provision is removed.

The NZPIF is extremely concerned that more neighbourhoods will become domestic war zones if the right to issue no stated cause notices is removed. We will be doing all we can to prevent this.

Tags: federation reports

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