Tenants’ advocates are worried the proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) will swing the law in favour of landlords, if three key provisions go through.
Kevin Reilly, Manawatu Tenants Union co-ordinator, believes National is giving “more power to the landlords” if:
Helen Gatonyi of the Tenants Protection Association believes now is an “ironic” time for the government to be lessening tenants’ ability to have their voice heard, “when all predictions show that the rental market is going to be bigger than ever before in the very foreseeable future.”
In relation to damages, both Reilly and Gatonyi believe very few tenants intentionally damage their rental properties.
“What happens is that in the course of normal living they sometimes have an accident. In these cases the proposed amendment to limit the liability of a tenant to the equivalent of four weeks’ bond recognised this,” says Gatonyi.
The two tenant groups also favour the advocacy provisions in the original changes proposed by Labour.
Gatonyi says advocates provide a real answer in helping to address the imbalance of power between landlords and tenants, and in particular between professional property managers and tenants.
“When things go wrong, they really go wrong. A good advocate can help things get on track very quickly, working both with the tenant and the landlord,” she says.
Gatonyi and Reilly also believe advocates would save taxpayer money by keeping cases out of the Tenancy Tribunal.
Reilly argues that tenants fund the tribunal and bond office through payment of bonds and that some of that money should be used to fund advocates.
“Currently there is $5.5 million to $6 million in unclaimed bonds. That could be used to pay tenants’ advocates.”
He is also firmly against letting fees being charged to tenants and believes landlords should pay them.