Wellington renter's mould-filled flat highlights regulation needs

Kristin Hall
Source: 1News

Tenant advocates and property managers both say the Government has been slow to deliver on its plan to regulate the property management sector.

The Government made a pre-election promise last October to regulate property managers, but so far there’s only been consultation, and no policy decisions have been made.

Wellington renter Josh McKendry spent much of last year in a flat that was cold, mouldy and falling apart. He says it was often colder inside the house than out, and everything from furniture to personal belongings was regularly coated in mould.

He says the tipping point was when builders came in for repairs, and discovered that part of a wall was actually a real estate sign that had been painted and duct taped down in order to hide some rotten wood.

“Honestly, I just forgot what it was like to feel warm, you'd go out and come back home, even if it was winter you'd walk in and become colder than you were outside.”

The flat was managed by a property management company. McKendry says it took far too long for the property managers to deal with complaints, and he wants to see stricter rules.

“The overall feeling was that they didn't really feel bothered sorting out our problems, if we needed an issue sorted we'd pop ‘tenancy tribunal’ in the email then suddenly there was interest in it. They weren't scummy…they were just kind of incompetent.”

“We need some standards, tenants need to be able to feel safe in the houses that they're in.”

David Pearse from the Property Managers Institute of New Zealand agrees, saying the Government “needs to speed up a bit”.

Associate Housing Minster Poto Williams says she’s committed to developing a mandatory code of conduct for property managers, a licensing regime, and a good character test, but Pearse wants the proposed regulations to go further.

“They don't go far enough. We'd like to see [property managers] belong to a professional organisation, have a minimum level of education and do continuing professional development.”

“Anybody can become a property manager, that’s the scary thing. There are some cowboys out there that have ruined it for everybody.”

He also wants rules to apply to landlords as well as property managers.

“Property managers only manage less than 50 per cent of rental properties. If the government is really keen on looking after tenants, what about the other 50 per cent? At the moment there are private landlords who don't need to know anything about managing their properties.”

Williams says she’s had some “robust conversations” with property managers and landlords, and believes the Government’s making good progress.

The Greens Party’s Chlöe Swarbrick, who submitted written questions to parliament on the proposed rules, says that’s not fast enough.

“The regulation of property managers has been discussed politically for at least a decade. When it comes to making an election promise and a manifesto during a pandemic you'd hope that you could also fulfil that.”

“Six months into the Government you'd hope we'd be beyond the point of just soliciting advice.”

Williams says the Government is “looking” at taking a paper to Cabinet on the issue later this year, with a bill to be put through by the end of term.