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Govt helps landlords

Tuesday 26th August 2003

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Housing Minister, Steve Maharey, is offering residential landlords a comprehensive package of new Government initiatives to help them reduce their business risk when it comes to managing relationships with their tenants.

The package is designed to address a range of long-standing concerns New Zealand landlords have raised about the Residential Tenancies Act, Tenancy Services and the Tenancy Tribunal.

In his opening address to this year's NZPIF national conference in Auckland, the Minister presented landlords with four key initiatives covering enforcement, beneficiary rent payments, access to Tenancy Tribunal decisions and landlord education and advice.

Steve Maharey front-ended the package to act on landlords' concerns, with an announcement that the Act would be amended to provide landlords with a better enforcement option for Tenancy Tribunal Orders that had not been complied with.

Landlords with Orders to recover debt from tenants owing rent or compensation for damage caused, often have difficulty locating the tenant concerned once they have moved on from the property.

The Minister told investors that the new option would mean creditors who had been unable to enforce a Tenancy Tribunal Order because they could not locate the debtor, could apply for some government-held address information to be released to the Department for Courts to assist with enforcement.

NZPIF president, Craig Paddon, welcomed the Minister's package.

"We've worked hard with Ministry officials and through our membership to push the issues the Minister is addressing, and it's very pleasing to see that the time it's taken to get action means we have workable solutions to put in place now," he said.

Mr Paddon said the initiatives were an important step forward for all landlords in addressing the key issues of concern for the majority of investors, particularly enforcing Tribunal Orders for debt repayment and dealing with rent arrears.

Developing an effective ongoing working relationship with the Ministry of Housing, which administers the Residential Tenancies Act, has also been a useful outcome of this work, he said.

Head of Tenancy Services at the Ministry, Nigel Bickle, reiterated comments made in the Minister's address about the important role the Federation had played in achieving the package, working with Ministry officials.

He said this approach to working through the issues had proved to be a good one and the Ministry was committed to continuing to work in this way with rental community stakeholders.

The Minister's package also includes developments in the option for beneficiaries to have their rent payments paid directly from their benefit by the Ministry of Social Development.

Steve Maharey confirmed that new procedures for allowing the redirection of benefit for the payment of rent and rent arrears are being put in place, involving both MSD and the Ministry of Housing. The ability to 'redirect' has been possible in the past, where there is 'good cause' under Work and Income's criteria. However recent development work between the two agencies means that a new stream has been added to case managers' assessment of reasonable cause.

"This is the first specific initiative aimed at informing tenants about a range of potential solutions to rent arrears," Steve Maharey said.

"Allowing beneficiaries to access this method of payment has the potential to give their landlords a higher degree of confidence that their rent will be paid."

Tenants will receive information about the potential for Work and Income assistance with rent and rent arrears, when they are notified of any Tenancy Tribunal application made against them.

The Minister has also asked officials at the Ministry of Housing and Department for Courts to assess options for making Tenancy Tribunal decisions more readily accessible for tenants and landlords.

As the public record, the Minister said the Orders would be a useful tool for landlords seeking information about tenants who may expose them and their investment to high risk.

The Ministry of Housing will also be beefing up its public education programme, targeting more first-time landlords with its introductory seminar. There will also be a new, more advanced, hands-on seminar on offer, delivered in conjunction with NZPIF, and the overall programme will increase its focus on good tenant selection and business management practices.

"Being a professional landlord is a business, and it's about staying in business," Steve Maharey said.

"The challenges presented by this particular line of business lie in the dual role of managing both property, and people.

And it is in this area of relationships, that Government is able to assist."

He said the package would help achieve the right balance between a tenant's need for a home and investors' need for a successful and viable investment, and the Government wanted to support the Federation in developing professionalism and improved property management practices across the industry.

"The Government sees housing as a key element of social and economic well-being, central to people's lives and well-being, and we want to give it the attention it deserves."

The Minister also indicated he would be looking at the regulatory framework provided by the Residential Tenancies Act.

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