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Six-year rollercoaster ride

David Faulkner takes stock and reviews some of the big decisions we have seen over the Labour Party’s time in power.

By: David Faulkner

2 December 2023

As we head towards the end of the year it is a good chance to reflect on what has been a turbulent time over the past six years.

The changes have been constant and almost impossible to keep up with. In 2017, the government promised to make life better for renters, but is life really better now for tenants than it was six years ago? Now is a good time to take stock and review the changes that were made.

It is important to remember that we live in a property-owning democracy, although not everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in the market. Although many welcome a change in government, not everything the previous executive did was bad. Some of the changes that were supposed to assist tenants, however, may have had unintended consequences. Here is a review of some of the big decisions we have seen over the Labour Party’s time in power. Some of the decisions have been necessary; others have been ill thought through and have led to dire consequences.

From October 2017, when the Ardern party came to power, the changes came thick and fast, and not all have been because of the government. Here’s a snapshot.

  1. Banning charging tenants a letting fee.
  2. Passing the Healthy Homes Bill.
  3. Commissioning the chief science advisor to review methamphetamine standards.
  4. Implementing a bill to set minimum standards for meth contamination, but failing to set standards within timeframe.
  5. Implementation of Healthy Homes standards followed by changes on calculations and dates when they realised mistakes had been made.
  6. Implementing a rent freeze and increasing termination for arrears to 60 days during the lockdown.
  7. Implementing mass reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act in 2020.
  8. Introduction of punitive steps landlords could take to remove a tenant for anti-social behaviour.
  9. Advancing the powers of the Tenancy Tribunal.
  10. Giving tenants the right to make minor changes to rental properties.
  11. Introducing legislation to protect tenants who were victims of family violence.
  12. Increasing the bright-line test from two to five, then 10 years.
  13. Phasing out the ability of landlords to deduct interest from income.
  14. Implementation of the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act in an attempt to provide protection to consumers when taking out mortgages.
  15. Drafting a bill to regulate the residential property management industry.
  16. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner set new rental sector guidance for the property management industry after a manager admitted she went through tenants’ bank account details, looking at spending habits.

Some of these changes have been necessary, such as reforms around the Residential Tenancies Act and introducing minimum standards for rental properties through Healthy Homes. However, attacks on landlords have led to unintended consequences, particularly around taxation.

A new government will have their own views on what is required between getting the balance right to protect both parties and ensuring the system is fair. Hopefully, they catch their breath and listen to the relevant interest groups before they make changes.

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