Turei on landlord v. tenant rights

In Parliament today Green co-leader Metiria Turei asked a contentious question about landlord family’s rights versus tenant family’s rights.

Metiria Turei: Is the Minister arguing that a landlord’s family has more rights to that home than the tenant’s family, who may well have been living in that home for many years, built their lives around the schools and working community there—that those tenants have fewer rights than those other families?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, we believe in property rights. The landlord owns the property, and if they wish it for themselves or their family then they have to give only 42 days’ notice, so yes.

Either the landlord or the tenant giving notice to vacate a rented property has been fairly common through my lifetime.

I don’t know if it is happening elsewhere but in Dunedin 12 month tenancy agreements have become common, tying them in with annual turnover of student accommodation.

I believe the Greens are pushing for virtually lifetime guarantees for tenants.

Full transcript:


Residential Tenancies (Safe and Secure Rentals) Amendment Bill—Support

5. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Building and Housing: Ka tautoko ia ia taku Pire e hoatu nōhanga wā roa ana, ngita ana, tū roa ana i runga i tana tohutohu ki te hunga hoko whare tuatahi, ko nāianei, “probably not a good time for a young family to buy”; i tētahi whare i Akarana?

[Will he support my bill to provide more secure and stable long-term tenancies, given his recent advice to first-home buyers that now is “probably not a good time for a young family to buy” a house in Auckland?]

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing) on behalf of the Minister for Building and Housing: Although we certainly respect what the member is trying to do as far as tenants’ rights are concerned, we will not be supporting the bill, with the reason being that we are genuinely concerned that it might drive up compliance costs and actually end up harming tenants more than it ends up actually helping. The Government, however, is open to reforms that would encourage longer-term tenancies, and work is under way on setting up a stakeholder group on these very issues.

Metiria Turei: If the Minister is telling first-home buyers now not to buy a house, because homes are too expensive, will he at least support better tenancy rules that will create transparency around rent rises, given that rents are increasing at twice the rate of wages and families cannot afford that level of increase?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The first part of the member’s statement, I believe, is taken a bit out of context, and we are certainly not telling first-home buyers not to buy. In fact, we are seeing the opposite happen, and even in my own electorate of Hobsonville Point you can see many new homeowners buying there. However, in relation to the transparency and to some of the clauses in the bill, as I say, I think they need careful consideration. We have concerns on this side of the House about unintended consequences and those not being positive for the tenant.

Metiria Turei: If the Minister is encouraging people to stay renting because housing is so expensive to buy, will he give renters more security in their homes by removing the 42-day eviction notice, which is leading to increased levels of homelessness?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not support the first statement by the member, but in relation to the second statement, 90 days is actually the norm and there are exceptions that can be the 42 days. The exceptions to the 90 days are where the landlord’s family or themselves want to move in, or an employee, and then in the cases of where they might have sold. Where it is sold, it is when there is an unconditional agreement actually signed and the new owner wants a vacant property. It is 42 days from then, not from when it goes on the market or anything else, so, actually, 90 days is the norm.

Metiria Turei: Is the Minister arguing that a landlord’s family has more rights to that home than the tenant’s family, who may well have been living in that home for many years, built their lives around the schools and working community there—that those tenants have fewer rights than those other families?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, we believe in property rights. The landlord owns the property, and if they wish it for themselves or their family then they have to give only 42 days’ notice, so yes.

Metiria Turei: Has the Minister talked to the Minister of Education about the effect on children from having to move schools every year because their parents cannot afford stable long-term tenancies in homes because of rent increases and 42-day notices?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, I have, and actually we agree with, and share, her concerns around those who are moving a lot and not actually getting settled in their communities. That is why we have a number of things that are in place that are leading towards that—whether it is around social housing, whether it is around the work that is going on via schools and social workers in schools and other sorts of programmes. What we are concerned about is that some of the policies that the member is trying to put through, in her bill, potentially could have landlords withdrawing houses for tenants and, as a consequence of that, we think that that of course will mean fewer homes and actually lead to more disadvantage for those very people whom she is trying to help.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister not understand how irrational it is for the Minister of housing to be telling families not to buy a house because housing is too expensive and yet to stay in rental accommodation when renting is, as she has said, insecure, unstable, and expensive?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I know it is hard for the member to appreciate, but actually I think that there is probably agreement across the House on what we want to see as the outcomes for these people. What we disagree on is actually the venue and the vehicle for doing that, and the member’s bill, at the very worst, is actually careless and could lead to more actual vulnerability for those very families whom she is trying to help. We have said that we are looking at setting up a stakeholders’ advisory group where it can be carefully considered and we can make sure that we have got the interests of the tenants foremost in those views. We already made changes to the Residential Tenancies Act earlier this year, which I think go some way towards protecting some of the tenants’ rights—

Metiria Turei: No, it doesn’t.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: —well, they do, actually—and that is what we will continue to do, but it will be in a careful and thoughtful manner that actually leads to better outcomes.