The Government plans to regulate residential property managers and the treatment of meth-contaminated houses, a move which it says will improve the lives of both renters and landlords.
In a suite of measures announced on Tuesday morning by Housing Minister Megan Woods, the Government also confirmed that Kainga Ora will not be required to meet the healthy homes compliance deadline by July 2023 as planned.
The healthy homes regulations, introduced by the Labor coalition Government in 2017, mandated heating and insulation requirements in rental properties to make dwellings healthier for tenants. Private landlords had to meet the requirements in July 2021 for all new or renewed leases, while the Government has now given its own house builder and landlord an extension until July 2024.
Only 68% of the state’s housing portfolio required to meet the standards currently comply, while work is being done on another 16% of the homes.
The deadline for all private landlords to fulfill the heathy homes rules has been pushed out from 2024 to 2025.
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National’s Housing Spokesperson Christopher Bishop has called the Government’s move to push back the healthy homes deadline “industrial strength hypocrisy from a government that simply can’t deliver when it comes to housing”.
“The vast majority of private sector landlords have done the right thing. They’ve complied with the rules. Now it turns out the government can’t actually comply with their own rules.”
Megan Woods said that Covid was to blame for pushing out the dates.
Property managers ‘shellshocked’ at regulation plans
Residential property managers will also be regulated in a move that fulfills a Labor Party manifesto commitment in 2020.
Currently, the sector is not regulated – although property managers who are members of an industry association have to comply with industry standards – which the Government says can lead to inconsistent service for tenants and property owners.
About a third of New Zealand households live in rental accommodation, and of that about 40% of those properties are looked after by property managers.
Residential Property Managers Association chairman David Pearse said while they are all for the regulation of property managers, he was a bit shellshocked by this morning’s announcement. He said he got the release from a third party, and he was trying to find out more.
“There is very little detail on how things will actually work in the one-pager. How can we submit or comment on something if we don’t know more details,” he said.
The new system will include compulsory registration and licensing for both individual property managers and the organizations, training and entry requirements, practice standards and a complaints and disciplinary process.
“Sometimes tenants are vulnerable to poor behavior from residential property managers, especially in a tight rental market. Following our moves to give tenants more protection through the Residential Tenancies Act, we made a manifesto commitment in 2020 to regulate residential property managers,” Megan Woods said.
“This means that like many other professions such as real estate agents, builders and lawyers, they will have conduct and competency standards to abide by and if they don’t, they can be held to account.”
The Government aims to introduce a bill into Parliament in mid-2023.
Property Investors Federation vice-president Peter Lewis said the federation is in favor of property managers being regulated because they handle other people’s money, and there should be checks and balances around that.
“But it is not a guarantee of good behavior. A rogue will still be a rogue even if they are a licensed rogue.”
He said it was appropriate that self-managing property owners would not be required to be registered.
Renters United president Geordie Rogers said he was surprised that, at this stage, private landlords who managed their own property would not be required to be regulated.
Bishop said that the party was open to potential regulation of property managers, but that the party would have to see details and that it would be loath to do anything that might add more costs to the price of renting.
New rules for former meth-houses
Woods also announced that the Government will regulate contaminated former methamphetamine drug dens, and will be consulting on what amount of methamphetamine residue is acceptable or harmful, proposals around how to test for meth, decontaminate houses and what to do with contaminated possessions.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has commissioned up-to-date scientific research on health exposure to meth to inform its new proposals. The consultations are expected to begin on November 22.
“We have proposals that are informed by science, on screening, testing, and decontamination, with clear obligations for landlords,” Woods said.
“Under National, this issue was a dog’s breakfast; hundreds of tenants were unnecessarily evicted from public housing through the application of pseudo-science, and we are cleaning up that mess.
“While the witch hunt on public housing tenants stopped under this Government and the former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman’s 2018 report resulted in a more scientific approach to residue dangers, it’s time to settle the rules once and for all,” she said.
“Nearly 600,000 households rent in New Zealand and these measures will result in regulated oversight of residential property managers, science-based rules on meth residue testing and a reprieve for landlords in meeting a compliance deadline,” Woods said.