December 8, 2023

The Front Page: Landlords v renters – What’s at the stake in the next election

The election could have a big impact on New Zealand's 1.3 million renters. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Nearly 600,000 rental properties across New Zealand are home to 1.3 million tenants.

The future of these two groups hangs in the balance as the nation awaits the results of the upcoming election.

NZ Herald property editor Anne Gibson tells The Front Page podcast the Labour Government introduced the biggest shake-up in the rental sector the country had seen in 35 years through the introduction of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act, which greatly strengthened the position of renters.

“The meant that tenants could feel more secure in the places that they rented instead of landlords just being able to terminate a tenancy or end it without any reason,” says Gibson.

“Landlords had to explain why they were evicting someone. And then the Government provided a very strict set of reasons that would allow the termination to occur.”

Act and National have both come out with bold promises, saying that they would roll back some of the changes that Labour had introduced.

Act leader David Seymour has gone as far as describing the current system as “a war on scapegoated landlords”.

“Act and National are very aligned on this, and there are basically three things they’re looking at changing,” says Gibson.

The first would be the reinstatement of no-cause terminations, which would give landlords an easier path toward terminating a tenancy. They would also change the bright-line test from 10 to two years in a move to make the market more attractive to investors. And the third change would see them reverse ring-fencing rules to allow landlords to offset losses on a rental property against their wages or other incomes.

The combined shift of these changes would tip the power balance back in favour of landlords, thereby making conditions a bit tougher for renters.

“The fear here is that tenants would be less secure in their properties … but on the other hand, landlords have objected to losing the freer right to terminate. They say that hardly ever happened anyway … and they also say that accessing the tenancy tribunal is very difficult.”

So, amid this tussle between landlords and renters, what are our political parties offering? How do our rental laws compare to those overseas? And is it worrying that we have so much capitalised centralised in the property market?

Listen to the full episode of The Front Page podcast to hear the full discussion on these issues.

The Front Page is a daily news podcast from the New Zealand Herald, available to listen to every weekday from 5am. It is presented by Damien Venuto, an Auckland-based journalist with a background in business reporting who joined the Herald in 2017.

You can follow the podcast at iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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