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Desperately Seeking Standards

Changes to the property management industry are needed, says Aaron Tunstall, but Labour should tweak its tone.

By: Aaron Tunstall

1 October 2018

When you want to see someone look surprised and slightly horrified, explain to them that anyone can set up shop as a property manager tomorrow. That includes someone with a history of fraud, or someone who’s never heard of the Residential Tenancies Act, or someone who has never been a tenant or owned a house. Just this week I spoke to an owner who said to me, “I cannot believe there isn’t any legal requirement for a property manager to have an audited trust account – and at least some form of basic qualification.”

Like most property managers who take pride in their work, I am totally in favour of regulating the industry. Whenever a story appears in the media that showcases a terrible property manager, it makes us all look bad, which is infuriating. Usually the property manager who’s getting the bad press has failed to do even the most basic of tasks properly. It can seem like the media is constantly on the case of landlords and property managers, but without the attention there wouldn’t be any impetus for this clean-up of the industry.

But it shouldn’t be the press making this happen – it should be the Real Estate Agents’ Authority. We desperately need a governing body with some minimum standards.

Tenants deserve better too. Imagine getting a 42-day notice to vacate your home – even 90 days would be awful. It’s doubly stressful when your children are at the local school and you need to try to find somewhere within the same school zone or switch schools, which is an expensive and stressful process. Tenants with pets face an even more difficult time trying to find another place that will accept them. Some security of tenure would help everyone, from the tenants themselves to the property owner. Having a great tenant who feels more secure and stays longer is advantageous all round.

‘We desperately need a governing body with some minimum standards, tenants deserve better too - imagine getting a 42-day notice to vacate your home’

Bring On New Standards

Some property managers disagree with any change here, but they are only trying to protect themselves from those tenants who are a nuisance or are not paying the rent. This is where we need help and standards in this department would be extremely helpful. Obviously all tenants deserve a fair chance and life events can set us all back. However, we need clear ways to deal with serious nuisance tenants and serial non-rent-payers.

It’s easy for the media to demonise landlords, and everyone seems to think property investors are all rolling in cash. Most are normal Kiwis trying to get ahead in life – you’re probably one of them. The majority of landlords own just one or two properties and they are often “accidental” landlords. Few people can afford to support their rental properties without any rent coming in. If the rent ceases it stops them from being able to make the necessary changes to their properties to get them up to a good standard. If they end up selling, we may find our summer rental crisis becomes all-year-round pandemonium.

The current message from Labour seems to be “bugger the industry, we are going to do this no matter what you say”. I would love to see the government get behind the industry instead, and say, “We need to improve this for investors, tenants and property managers because we recognise we are behind the times compared to the rest of the world. Help us to get this right.” If the Labour Government delivered these changes cleverly, they could win over an entire industry and a bunch of Kiwi investors trying to save for a better retirement. I think they would then ease into the next election.

Aaron Tunstall is the general manager of award-winning Impression Real Estate, which specialises in property management and sales and manages over 1,750 Auckland apartments.


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