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A New Reliable Tenant Pool

Ministry of Social Development housing brokers are working closely with tenants to assess their suitability for housing placement with private landlords, as Sarah Fry explains.

By: Sarah Fry

1 February 2021

Nelson property investor Scott Dodd has found a new way to secure good, reliable, long-term tenants.

He’s making use of a new Ministry of Social Development (MSD) housing broker service that connects property owners with suitable tenants. “I gave the broker a chance to find me good, long-term tenants,” says Scott. “To my surprise, I have taken on several new tenants now from the broker and all of them so far I have been offered have been good people just trying to find a home and make a new start.”

Housing brokers were introduced in mid-2020 as part of the Government’s Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan, as a way of connecting with local landlords and helping more MSD clients secure private rental homes. The package also includes funding to help people gain skills as tenants.

In the Nelson-Tasman, Marlborough, West Coast region, for example, the two brokers covering the area housed 50 families in the six months to December. Key to the housing brokers’ success is the relationships they build with property investors, property managers and landlords. The Nelson-based brokers are themselves former, experienced property managers and so know what the industry expects from suitable tenants. Much effort is put into ensuring MSD clients are ready to manage the responsibilities of tenancy and the brokers then advocate on their behalf to find sustainable accommodation.

MSD Regional Housing Advisor for Nelson-Tasman, Marlborough and the West Coast, Penny Hamilton, says the team has been successful in opening the minds of both landlords and clients about rental possibilities. “We’re finding landlords and property managers are now coming back to us to look for tenants.

Repeat business is great feedback for the housing broker service,” she says. Nelson’s housing brokers are Fiona Gillespie and Lynnette Butler. While there are never guarantees with any tenancy, they say brokers aim to mitigate risk for
both parties.

“Property investors and managers can consider our brokerage service as another tool in their tool belt,” says Butler. Housing brokers’ focus is helping clients with a housing need who have a proven history of paying their rent, can maintain a tidy home inside and out, and are generally good neighbours.

“In getting to know clients, housing brokers can put them forward for accommodation best-suited to their needs and we can find solutions and support for issues they may face in sustaining rentals. We want our clients to be successful tenants,” says Butler.

Additional Support

MSD has a range of housing products available to support eligible clients in maintaining suitable accommodation. These include ongoing financial support with rent and housing costs, as well as one-off payments to cover bond, rent-in-advance and situations when unexpected costs temporarily put extra financial strain on the tenant.

A commonly used tool is MSD’s housing product Rent Arrears Assistance. “Unexpected costs can crop up in anyone’s life and place stress on a household. We can use this tool in negotiation with a landlord before rent arrears become problematic,” says Gillespie.

“The important thing is beginning the conversation. Everyone faces difficulty at times in their life and MSD has the tools and support available to help eligible tenants and landlords overcome difficulties before relationships break down.”

Dodd has used the brokerage service to help him navigate issues with some of his existing tenants who are MSD clients. “During my relationship with the brokers they have helped me out with some of my other struggling tenants’ arrears issues in a fast and easy way as they have a relationship with all the (MSD) case managers.”

“I have worked with a few different brokers now over the past six months and all are efficient and professional. Even after the property has been let the broker is keen to hear if there are any issues and help sort.”

Ready To Rent

In addition, MSD funds a short training course, Ready to Rent, to equip clients in emergency or insecure housing with the skills and confidence to gain and sustain private rental housing. It covers rights and responsibilities of being a tenant; applying for tenancy and preparing for interviews; what landlords look for in a tenant; home budgeting, managing costs and debt; keeping a home warm and dry; and the supports available from various agencies including MSD’s housing, financial and employment services. Employment is a key focus for MSD.

Ready to Rent graduates add the course to their CV for potential landlords. Of the initial 16 graduates in Nelson-Tasman and Greymouth, seven have found suitable, sustainable accommodation, either through the brokers or by themselves.

Work with property managers and landlords can require persistence at times, says Gillespie. “We’ve sometimes made three or four calls to a landlord or property manager to help negotiate for a potential tenant who was ready and was the right fit for their accommodation,” she said. “All that many of our clients need is a chance.”

‘It saves me the hassle of advertising and doing many viewings. It is a win, win, win for the tenants, MSD and myself as landlord’ SCOTT DODD

MSD’s Purpose is to help New Zealanders to be safe, strong and independent. By housing MSD clients, landlords have an opportunity to make a lasting difference for them, their families and our communities, says MSD Regional

Housing Manager for Nelson-Tasman, Marlborough and the West Coast, Iain McKenzie. “Having a place to live is often the first step in transforming someone’s circumstances,” he says. And the advantages run both ways.

Dodd has found using MSD’s Housing Broker service straightforward. “The process is easy,” he says. “The broker gives you their [client’s] contact details and you can do your own due diligence on the people, just like normally. Once you are happy and they are too to take the property, you just send all your documents to the broker and the process is seamless.

“It saves me the hassle of advertising and doing many viewings. It is a win, win, win for the tenants, MSD and myself as landlord. “Now, with new rules coming into force that bolster tenants’ rights, it is even more important to choose the correct tenants for your investment properties.” To contact a Housing Broker in your area visit: workandincome.govt.nz/ findatenant


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