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A landlord's guide to making RTA reform and HHGA submissions (updated)

Wednesday, October 03, 2018


There are two pieces of law currently in their consultation stages that are simply too important and consequential for landlords to ignore: reform of the Residential Tenancies Act and Healthy Homes Standards. If left to their own devices, these proposals could dramatically shift the landscape of residential tenancy for landlords. Everyone involved in this industry has skin in the game. If you want to see fairer outcomes for landlords then you must participate in the process. Now is your opportunity to do so. 

This article is designed to give you the resources you need to first understand the issues at hand and, more importantly, share your views with policymakers in a meaningful way. We acknowledge that opinions and positions differ across the board and while those who read this article are surely passionate about the issues, not everyone has the luxury of time to go through the consultation documents with a fine-tooth comb let alone write in-depth submissions that are fully cited and include first-hand accounts. 

With that in mind, we have organised the resources under the two separate headings of RTA Reform and HHGA Standards. Each section is further split into resources for the passionate landlord who has the time to engage in a more in-depth submission process and for the time-poor landlord who, while being passionate about the issues, prefers a more streamlined approach. This piece will be wrapped up with an FAQ section as a way for us to share our views and explain the reasons behind this particular approach. 

*Updated 17 October 2018*

NZPIF Executive Officer gave a keynote speech to APIA members this month on these proposed policies and how they would impact landlords. Take a look. 

 


Scroll through the document for particular sections of interest: 

1. RTA Reform

1.1. Important details to note 

1.2. Resources for the passionate landlord 

1.3. Resources for the time-poor landlord 

2. HHGA Standards 

2.1. Important details to note 

2.2. Resources for the passionate landlord

2.3. Resources for the time-poor landlord

3. FAQ 


1. RTA Reform 

The proposed reform is being promoted as a necessary step to modernise tenancy laws to reflect that of the reality of renting in New Zealand. Several elements of the RTA are being looked at closely for change. They include: 

  • Termination of tenancy; 
  • Tenancy agreements (specifically open-ended tenancies); 
  • Landlord and tenant responsibilities; 
  • Alteration and modifications;
  • Pets;
  • Rent increase; and 
  • Boarding houses.

It is important to understand that the purpose of the reform is for the Labour Government to deliver on its election promise of 'making life better for renters', not landlords. The suggestion is that current rules disproportionally favour landlords. While you may or may not be in agreement, it is important to keep this framework in mind when drafting your submission. The politicians have already made up their minds to elevate tenants' rights. We encourage you to consider whether it is worthwhile to pursue this discussion as if residential tenancy is a zero-sum game or whether, in many circumstances, a win-win outcome can be achieved. 

Unlike Healthy Homes standards, there is currently no pieces of legislation underpinning the consultation process. Our understanding is that this exercise is about collecting the information necessary to form the basis of an overall policy change. What does that mean for landlords? It means it is early days. There is still time to change minds before the legislators put pen to paper. Now is the time to speak up.  

1.1. Important details to note 
  1. The deadline for your submission is 5 pm Sunday 21 October 2018; 
  2. You can email your submission to RTAreform@mbie.govt.nz or by post to Residential Tenancies Act Reform, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, PO Box 82, Wellington 6140 (if by post we suggest you send your submission by Monday 16 October); 
  3. There is an option to make your submission by completing an online survey (est. 45 minutes), for the reasons stated below, we only recommend you to do so in limited circumstances
  4. Your submission only needs to include issues that are relevant to you especially if you disagree with the proposed changes, you do not have to comment on all 7 issues; 
  5. Your submission does not need to be in any particular format though we do encourage you to share your thoughts respectfully, truthfully with an eye on proportionality and fairness;
  6. Your submission may be made public. If you do not want your personal information published then make sure you specifically indicate that in your submission.
1.2. Resources for the passionate landlord 
1.3. Resources for the time-poor landlord 
 

 
2. HHGA Standards

Late last year Parliament passed the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act (No 2) clearing the way for the current government to set new minimum standards at rental properties that are expected to supercede the 2016 minimum standards. Since then, the government, with the consultation of industry stakeholders, has put forward six issues the new standards will address:

  • Heating;
  • Insulation;
  • Ventilation;
  • Moisture ingress and drainage; 
  • Drought stopping; and 
  • Compliance timeframe.

The stated mission of the HHGA Standards is to 'make rental homes warmer and drier, and deliver the greatest benefit to tenants without imposing an unreasonable burden and cost on landlords'. It would be worthwhile to structure your comments around two key tenets: one being what would be of greatest benefit to tenants and the second being what would cause an unreasonable burden and/or incur an unreasonable cost for landlords

It is important to contrast this particular consultation with that of the proposed reform of the RTA. This particular submission process is one of the few final steps before new minimum standards for rental properties become law. In essence, new standards are coming and there is no stopping them. You do however still have a say over what the scope of these new standards will be by taking part in the submission process. 

2.1. Important details to note
  1. The deadline for your submission is 6 pm Monday 22 October 2018;
  2. You can email your submission to healthyhomes@mbie.govt.nz or by post to Healthy Homes Standards, Housing and Urban Branch, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, PO Box 1473, Wellington 6140 (if by post we suggest you send your submission by Monday 16 October); 
  3. There is an option to make your submission by completing an online survey (est. 30 minutes), for the reasons stated below, we only recommend you to do so in limited circumstances;
  4. Your submission only needs to include issues that are relevant to you especially if you disagree with the proposed changes, you do not have to comment on all 6 issues;
  5. Your submission does not need to be in any particular format though we do encourage you to share your thoughts respectfully, truthfully with an eye on proportionality and fairness; 
  6. Your submission may be made public. If you do not want your personal information published then make sure you specifically indicate that in your submission. 
2.2. Resources for the passionate landlord
2.3. Resources for the time-poor landlord

3. FAQ

1. Why should I make submissions? 

Because every now and then a new piece of law comes along that has the potential transforming an industry in a dramatic fashion. When that happens, the only way for there to be a fair outcome is for all stakeholders of that industry to partake in the consultation process with the hope that the policymakers take onboard what everyone has to say before nutting out the finer details. In the case of this October, two pieces of law have that potential - the HHGA and RTA reform. We think it is necessary for landlords to have a seat at the table and have our points of view heard.

Additionally, while there are landlords out there who welcome these changes, others stand to be unduly burdened. It is incumbent especially on those who oppose the changes to take advantage of this opportunity to speak up. Civic engagement is so much more than voting, if you want a fairer outcome for yourself then you must participate in the process and demand to be heard. 

2. Isn't the APIA already making a submission? 

Yes, we are and we often do with any new piece of legislation that is to do with landlords/property investors. In fact, we often make these submissions on behalf of our members without urging you to make your own personal submission. But this time, the proposed changes have such consequential effects, we feel that our voice will be better heard if all of us speak out. 

3. Should I submit by filling out the online survey? 

We have concerns over the impartiality of some of the wordings of the surveys. In short, we feel that some of the questions guide respondents to a pre-determined outcome that has not been legislatively determined.

For example, the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act states that the eventual standards may include a minimum temperature that is capable of being achieved by the property. The corresponding question in the online survey asks What achievable indoor temperature should heating devices be sized for? and gives only two options of 18℃ or 20℃ but no option for anyone to submit that a minimum temperature should not become part of the standards. Questions like this put the government outside of its mandate given by the HHGA. 

That said, if you are, in general, in favour of the proposed changes and your interest in making a submission is only to affect the scope of the change then the online survey could be a preferable alternative to writing your own submission from scratch. 

4. Can you supply a written submission template for me to print out and sign? 

Unfortunately no. We have it on good authority that identical submissions will be treated as one no matter how many copies are received from different 'submitters'. For that reason, we have used prompted in our template documents to help you put your thoughts to words. 

5. What else if the APIA doing to represent my interest? 

We will continue to attend RTA and HHGA workshops around Auckland to lobby for the interest of our landlords and engage with policymakers. We also continue to support the vital advocacy work that is carried out by the NZPIF. Additionally, we will alert all members of any important legislative developments and work with our business partners to facilitate better opportunities for our members to continue investing and landlording responsibly. 

6. How can I help?

Yes, we are always looking for member volunteers to help us improve the way we support other members. If you would like to get involved please reach out to us by emailing admin@apia.org.nz.

Secondly, we need more members. While the advocacy work we carry out benefit landlords across the board, we are only funded by a very small percentage of Auckland landlords. For some time now, there has been an overwhelming outpouring of support for tenants sometimes to the detriment of landlords. While we do not believe residential tenancy is zero-sum, we cannot ignore the fact that a growing number of ma-and-pa investors are feeling pressured, isolated, and bewildered. It is more important than ever for Auckland landlords to mobilise ourselves and speak with a louder voice. To help us scale up our operation, your word of mouth recommendation of membership to friends and family will be very much appreciated. 


 

 

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