Landlords want new three strikes rule to evict tenants

New Zealand’s 1.5 million tenants in the country’s 546,000 rental properties could be subject to a new three strikes pre-eviction policy under a proposal from the country’s largest landlord group.

Andrew King, NZ Property Investors Federation executive director, said faced with the Government axing the 90-day tenant evictions, landlords should be allowed to invoke a three strikes policy against renters by giving two initial warnings, then a 90-day notice period.

He made his organisation’s submission on the Residential Tenancies Act reform, proposed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, saying an alternative was needed if the 90-day eviction rights ended.

Currently, tenants on a periodic or no-fixed-term rental agreement must give 21 days notice and landlords 90 days, or 42 days if they are selling.

But tenant advocates say the three strikes proposal would cause considerable disruption to renters and their families.

“We want to move towards far greater genuine security for tenants and we need to reduce landlords’ ability to evict tenants from their homes,” said Kate Day of Renters United.

“We want to preserve their stability of tenure. Andrew’s proposal of three strikes immediately makes you think of the three strikes legislation,” she said referring to criminal law for serious offenders.

King had previously argued a minority of landlords used the 90-day notice period “so we consider it inconsistent to keep arguing for something that a low number of landlords use”, Day said.

Last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “Labour is committed to restoring the Kiwi dream of owning your own place. We also recognise that long-term renting has become a reality for more families, but the current law creates instability and insecurity for many. We are going to fix this. We want our rental system to be fair and take away stress for both tenants and landlords.”

Landlords would still be able to terminate tenancies for just cause, such as rent arrears or damage to the property, she said. But the 90-day notice period would go.

King said if it had to be axed, landlords wanted an alternative to going to the Tenancy Tribunal.

“If the Government still believes that the 90-day no-cause notice has to be removed, then a potentially acceptable proposition is to introduce a three strikes, no-stated-reason, 90-day notice,” King wrote.

The ministry discussion document says: “After removing the ability for landlords to issue a 90-day notice without reason, landlords would have to give tenants an opportunity to stop their bad behaviour then if they don’t, apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to end the tenancy”.

The ministry document cited harassment, intimidation, verbal abuse, intimidating other tenants or neighbours, and sustained noise as examples of what could be included in the law as unacceptable behaviours.

But King said the 90-day notice was used “because the owner cannot gather sufficient evidence to prove the unacceptable behaviour”.

A survey of 529 landlords showed only 36 per cent had used the 90-day no-cause termination and “90-day without cause notices are not the main cause of tenants feeling insecure within their tenancies. Having their home sold is the key reason”, King said.

While advocates portrayed the 90-day notice period as being used against tenants, the federation had seen no evidence of that, he said.

Landlords should retain the right to determine what is and is not acceptable behaviour and retain the tools they require to effectively manage their properties, King argued.

The Child Poverty Action Group said the review’s proposals “don’t go far enough to provide tenants the kind of protection they need in a private rental market which is increasingly unreliable”.

Why landlords issue 90-day notices:
• Antisocial behaviour: 21.7 per cent
• Tenant damage: 21.2 per cent
• Rent: 15.7 per cent
• Repairs or renovation: 12.6 per cent
• Selling: 11.6 per cent
• Disturbing neighbours: 8.6 per cent
• Moving into property: 3 per cent
• Pets: 2 per cent
• Drugs: 2 per cent
• Exceeding number of tenants permitted: 1.5 per cent.

Source: NZ Property Investors Federation, article source: NZ Herald