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Landlords, get talking to your tenants

Landlords should encourage tenants to tell them of problems with rental properties, the NZPIF says in response to new research showing rental properties are in worse condition than owner-occupied homes.

Thursday, April 27th 2017, 11:00AM 4 Comments

by Miriam Bell

Rental properties are twice as likely to have poorly maintained features as owner-occupied properties, according to the latest Housing Condition Survey by Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ).

The survey, which is conducted every five years, found that a third of rental properties were considered by assessors to have poorly maintained features, compared to only 14% of owner-occupied properties.

Rental properties were also three times more likely to feel damp, twice as likely to smell musty and were more likely to have visible mould.

Overall, the condition of New Zealand housing has improved since the previous survey – with a decrease in poorly maintained properties in both the owner-occupied and rental categories.

But the survey shows that a gap between owner-occupied properties and rentals remains.

The biggest differences in quality were between interior linings and fittings, as well as exterior doors and windows, all of which were in poorer condition in rented homes.

Building Minister Nick Smith told media that the results were a consequence of owner-occupiers having a more direct interest in a property's maintenance.

This meant they were likely to do more self-maintenance and could organise repairs more directly.

Smith said the survey results sent a message that landlords could do better.

They also justified a law change last year that imposed extra obligations on landlords, including making insulation and smoke alarms compulsory.

But the NZ Property Investors Federation (NZPIF) believes tenants have a role to play, too.

NZPIF executive officer Andrew King said the general psyche of New Zealanders prioritises home ownership over renting.

“As a result, people don’t see value in paying rent and like to pay as little as possible. This, in turn, can impact on the quality of rental housing.”

Additionally, tenants often don’t tell landlords that there are things wrong with their rental properties and landlords only become aware of them if they conduct full property inspections, he said.

“We would encourage tenants to bring up any problems with a property with their landlords.

“But we would also encourage landlords to let their tenants know that if there is anything wrong with the property they should be approached about it.”

King said most landlords would like their tenants to talk to them about problems with the property but it all came down to ensuring that communication lines were open.

“Ultimately, it is in the best interest of a landlord to keep their rental property in good condition and up to scratch.

"It makes good business sense as tenants of well-maintained properties are likely to stay longer, meaning lower vacancy rates."

This might be the case but landlords can and should do a better job, according to Labour Party housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.

The BRANZ data shows that most landlords are doing a good job but the government’s low standards allow too many rentals that are unhealthy to live in, he said.

“A small number of landlords are letting down the sector by renting cold, mouldy rentals. These houses need to be brought up to a decent standard for people to live in.”

Making Labour’s Healthy Homes Bill become law would help ensure New Zealand’s rental properties are healthy to live in and would save the taxpayer on health costs, Twyford added.

Read more:

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Comments from our readers

On 27 April 2017 at 4:42 pm bothworlds said:
We own several rental properties in central Auckland but also rent as tenants. Our landlord chooses to "manage" the property himself. We have been in his leaky home for 8 years. I have always informed him of maintenance issues and have even resolved some myself. On several occasions, I have withheld rent just get a response from him. The last time he came to do an inspection (2 months ago) I showed him no fewer than 6 maintenance issues requiring attention (some were more than 3 years outstanding. He wrote nothing down and ended the visit suggesting he wanted to increase the rent by $50/week. He has done absolutely nothing about the maintenance.
Could I suggest that many tenants don't raise maintenance problems with landlords for fear of calling attention to themselves and "inviting" a rent review? Better to shut up and hope he doesn't notice us. Perhaps?
On 27 April 2017 at 6:46 pm jpaynter said:
From my observations the main reason that rentals are damper is that tenants are less likely to air the property by opening doors and windows.

This may because they do not as a rule live in a area for so long and feel less secure or rental properties are often in lower socioeconomic areas (conversely some top end rentals are aired, as they are behind locked gates). Another issue is with recent migrates who are likely to be renters. They come from different climates and do not appreciate the need to air the properties.

The best way to ensure healthy rentals is to make tenants more responsible for their actions though. e.g. the number one scourge (at least reported by the media) is P and this cannot be laid at the feet of landlords to blame (although the current approaches tend to do so).
On 28 April 2017 at 6:17 pm Peter L said:
Bothworlds, are you aware that you can issue a 14-day notice to your Landlord requiring him to carry out the necessary repair work?
Actually, your later comments encapsulate the essence of the problem. You say you don't want to push the issues because he might put the rent up.
So really you are saying you would sooner pay a below-market rent and suffer a substandard house rather than pay a fair market rent for place that is in good repair.
This is why many rentals are in poor condition. Tenants rent such a property, and then complain. In reality, if you pay cheap then you get cheap.
If you want good then pay for good.
On 29 April 2017 at 5:09 pm bothworlds said:
With respect to ventilation and security issues, we have securistays on all our properties windows to help our tenants feel more secure. Even so, they require no small amount of encouragement to actually use them. One family (Indian) explained that their cultural MO is to keep stockpiles of gold in their homes. Maybe that makes them more attractive targets for thieves. A hangover from untrustworthy banks in their home country perhaps. I wonder if providing a floor safe or similar might improve rentability. Might check it out.

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