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by Greta Yeoman

As landlords gear up for legislative changes regarding insulation next year, a group of tenant representatives has released a report recommending an overhaul of the country’s rental situation.

Wellington-based tenant advocates Renters United released “The Plan to Fix Renting” report last night, which called for stable homes, fair rent, safe and healthy homes, and meaningful enforcement.

Renters United representative Robert Whitaker said the plan included shifting to indefinite tenancies as normal practice, implementing a housing warrant of fitness, limiting rent increases to once a year and reform of the Tenancy Tribunal to better support tenants.

However, previous suggestions of a housing warrant of fitness had been dismissed across South Canterbury, with all three mayors in the region telling The Courier last year that the move seemed unnecessary.

South Canterbury Anglican Care social justice advocate Ruth Swale said she knew of at least 100 cold houses in the region that were rented by clients she worked with.

Ms Swale had begun working with the New Zealand Property Investors South Canterbury branch and formed TenancyLink, which aimed for better communication between landlords and tenants.

Anglican Care social justice advocate Ruth Swale

She knew of one tenant who had been told by their landlord that they would upgrade the insulation if the tenant paid half, while other landlords were planning on paying for upgrades by increasing rents.

“That makes tenants not want to ask for improvements.”

EnergySmart Timaru branch manager Rowena McLintock said the insulation company staff saw a “real range” of properties in the region, while NZ Property Investors South Canterbury branch president Kerry Beveridge said from a property investor’s perspective it was a small number of bad tenants who often made things difficult for good tenants.

“[Good tenants] are in the majority.”

He said there was no “silver bullet” to improve the rental situation for both landlords and tenants, but he did encourage landlords in South Canterbury to join the property investors association, so they could be part of a wider group of property owners.

“[We want people] to be good landlords.”

He said it was often miscommunication between property owners and tenants that escalated problems.

“Extremes on both ends are the problem.”

Ms Swale said discussions about a reform of the rental situation were important, “especially when people are renting for life”.