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Renters at odds with landlords over housing - survey

Newshub logoNewshub 2/08/2017 Richard Wain

© Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited There's a huge gap between how tenants and landlords view each other, according to a new survey.

While cold, damp homes remain a big problem in the rental market, it appears to be a much bigger one for renters than home owners.

Most landlords in HRV's State of the Home Survey believe they're good to their tenants and respond quickly to their concerns, but most renters hold a complete opposite view.

Seventy five percent of landlords insist they fix problems as soon as possible - but 66 percent of renters claim it's the opposite, and that landlords either didn't respond or fail to fix a problem.

"Some landlords are fantastic... and other landlords are really quite hopeless and really don't come back with doing repairs at all well," the survey's author, AUT Sociology Professor Charles Crothers, told RadioLIVE.

A staggering 90 percent of landlords also claim they have good relations with tenants. 

However, the survey didn't ask renters what they thought about their rental's owners, but a quarter of tenants had contacted their landlords because the property was cold, mouldy and damp.

New Zealand Property Investors' Federation (NZPIF) boss Andrew King thinks the statistics might not tell the full story.

"I don't really know how to explain that, except that I guess people can have different views on how they view something. So it may be that both sides are perhaps a little bit off the mark as to what the true situation really is."

Mr King believes a key take-home from the survey is that renters are more likely to use as little heating as possible.

"When you think that rental properties are cold and damp, it's because they're not being heated," Mr King said.

"A lot of the time our members are telling us that they're providing heat pumps, they're insulating their properties but when they go back into the property, it's still got mould in it and they're finding that the tenants just aren't turning the heaters on."

However, the HRV survey found less than half of renters, 36 percent, have insulation, compared to 73 percent of home owners. 

Renters were also less likely to have double glazing, a heat pump, or a ventilation system.

"Some landlords certainly need to pull up their socks and be a bit better with dealing with complaints, and perhaps investing a little bit more solidly in things like insulation and so forth that reduce heating costs and make life a bit easier for people living in their homes," Prof Crothers said.

Another recent piece of research, the House Condition Survey from the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ), found worse conditions for tenants as opposed to home owners though the national housing stock clearly isn't at premium levels - even for those who own.

Damp and mould was much more prevalent in rental homes, at 56 percent - while 44 percent of owner-occupied homes also suffered mould and damp.

The survey found 38 percent of renters don't have access to cost-effective heating sources such as pumps, wood burners or gas heaters, compared to just 12 percent of homeowners.

Almost half of all houses - 47 percent - lacked adequate insulation, and 49 percent overall were damp and mouldy.

The NZPIF favours the pending Residential Tenancies Act amendments, which would improve insulation standards to at least 1978 levels and force smoke alarms to be compulsory by the middle of 2019.

But they oppose the more rigid Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill, which was introduced by Labour and will face its third and final reading in the next sitting of Parliament.

That bill would ensure insulation standards would be at least as good as 2008 standards for new homes, and would apply to all rental properties.

Mr King claims the cost of complying with the 2008 insulation standards would be too high for negligible gain above the 1978 levels.

And he says that it could become uneconomic to be in the landlord business at all, given the price of rental properties and mortgage payments, on top of maintenance costs.

"If regulations and the costs and everything keep increasing the way they have over the last seven years, then definitely it's going to make it untenable to be able to provide rental properties in New Zealand, which would be an awful situation for tenants and the people who are just trying to provide for retirement income for themselves through investing in rental property," Mr King said.

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