Proposed changes to tenancy laws aim at long-term security

Housing Minister Phil Twyford says that the Government wants to “strike a balance between providing tenants with security of tenure and allowing them to make their house a home, while protecting the rights and interests of landlords”, but headlines his announcement as “Government to make life better for renters”:

The public is being asked for feedback on new Government proposals aimed at making life better for renters, Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford has announced.

“Our tenancy laws are antiquated and don’t reflect the fact that renting is now a long-term reality for many of our families. A third of all New Zealanders now rent,” Phil Twyford said.

I think that renting has been a long-term reality for a lot of families for a long time, but many people only rent for relatively short terms – see (2015) The average length of stay in a rental property is two years says Barfoot & Thompson

“Insecure tenure can forcer families to continually move house. This is particularly tough on children whose education suffers when they have to keep changing schools.”

Phil Twyford urges landlords, tenants and other interested people to have their say on the proposals covered in a discussion document on reforming the Residential Tenancies Act released today.

“We want to strike a balance between providing tenants with security of tenure and allowing them to make their house a home, while protecting the rights and interests of landlords.”

That could be a challenge. It will be difficult to legally require landlords to provide secure long-term tenancies, as that would bind them to long-term ownership of rental properties.

The discussion document covers proposals on:

  • ending no cause tenancy terminations while ensuring landlords can still get rid of rogue tenants
  • increasing the amount of notice a landlord must generally give tenants to terminate a tenancy from 42 days to 90 days
  • whether changes to fixed-term agreements are justified to improve security of tenure
  • limiting rent increases to once a year
  • whether there should be limitations on the practice of ‘rent bidding’
  • whether the general obligations that tenants and landlords have remain fit for purpose
  • better equipping tenants and landlords to reach agreement about pets and minor alternations to the home
  • whether further controls for boarding houses are needed to provide adequate protection for boarding house tenants
  • introducing new tools and processes into the compliance and enforcement system.

“As people rent for longer, they want to be secure in their homes and put down roots in their community. That’s why making life better for renters is an important aspect of the Government’s housing plan,” Phil Twyford said.

Should people who rent expect to be able to securely “put down roots in their community” long-term?

The discussion document and a link to an online submission survey are available at: www.mbie.govt.nz/rta-reform.

Family Court review

After an investigation finding a lack of efficiency and cost effectiveness the Family Court process are being reviewed.

Public feedback sought on Family Court review

Justice Minister Simon Power is calling for public feedback on a discussion document into the Government’s ground-up review of the Family Court.

“The Government is conducting this review over concerns that since 2004/05 the court’s overall costs have increased by 63 per cent (excluding judicial resourcing), from $83.9 million to $137.1 million while applications to it have remained relatively stable,” Mr Power said.

“And there’s little evidence that this huge cost increase has resulted in improved outcomes, particularly for vulnerable parties and children.

”The research is clear about the negative impact that persistent conflict has on children, and figures show that in 2009/10 it took an average of 306 days to complete a parenting order application compared to 216 days in 2006/07, an increase of 90 days.

“The escalating costs, for no apparent improvement in outcomes, indicate clearly that the Family Court is not as effective and efficient as it could be.

“A culture change is needed to encourage separating parents to resolve matters at the earliest opportunity, and before the conflict becomes entrenched in court.”

Mr Power has released a discussion document on proposed changes, with public submissions welcomed until February 29. The Public Consultation Paper can be downloaded here.

If you have been involved in proceedings in the Family Court you can contribute to a questionnaire:

Family Court Review Questionnaire

Introduction
The Ministry of Justice is undertaking a review of the Family Court.  If you would like to learn more about the review and how to make a submission, please click here  to go to the Family Court Review homepage.

As part of the review we want to hear from people who have been involved in proceedings in the Family Court or who have sought advice from a lawyer about a family dispute.

The answers to this questionnaire will help shape any proposals for change in the way family law disputes are dealt with.

Family issues that result in court action can be difficult, even traumatic. Any attempt to make it easier and less costly is worthwhile.

Mr Power says the government’s vision for the Family Court is one in which:

  • Vulnerable people and children are protected and prioritised;
  • Access is well managed without unnecessary litigation;
  • Processes are simple, clear, consistent and certain;
  • Personal responsibility is emphasised and costs are met by users , where appropriate;
  • Decisions are logical, workable and durable, and
  • The system is affordable to taxpayers.