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New Zealand’s houses are wet, damp and draughty (Photo: Getty Images)
New Zealand’s houses are wet, damp and draughty (Photo: Getty Images)

BusinessOctober 10, 2018

Housing minister dismisses calls to rein in rogue property managers

New Zealand’s houses are wet, damp and draughty (Photo: Getty Images)
New Zealand’s houses are wet, damp and draughty (Photo: Getty Images)

Politicians have been ignoring pleas to control the wild west property management industry for over a decade, including the latest lobbying effort.

The housing minister is unmoved by calls from a coalition of 26 organisations to regulate rental property managers.

Social change agency Anglican Advocacy is leading a lobby to rein in the uncontrolled property management sector.

Despite being the keepers of billions of dollars in assets and millions in trust, holding tenants’ personal information and the keys to their homes, property managers require “no training, qualifications or licence to operate”, the coalition told the government in an open letter today.

“They hold the wellbeing and wealth of many New Zealanders in their hands,” it says.

Rogue operators are causing harm to renters and bringing the entire industry into disrepute, the letter says. An earlier report by Anglican Advocacy identifies myriad poor behaviour such as losing or not filing bond money, wrongly claiming arrears, invading privacy, and using unenforceable clauses in agreements.

Signatories to the letter include major Auckland real estate agency Barfoot & Thompson, Wellington tenants’ rights group Renters United, the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, and various property management firms.

The Spinoff has previously written about the high fees, lack of security around tenants’ and landlords’ money, and poor service levels that often characterise the industry.

But Housing Minister Phil Twyford isn’t planning to act anytime soon.

“I have listened to concerns about the behaviour of some property managers,” he says in a statement.

“However, the Government has a full programme with the reform of the Residential Tenancies Act and the implementation of the Healthy Homes Guarantee.

“It is something I’m willing to look at once these big work progammes are completed,” he says.

Regulation is long overdue, Anglican Advocacy says. A decade ago Parliament’s Justice and Electoral Select Committee recommended “immediate action be taken to create an appropriate regulatory regime for property management activities”. However the government of the day concluded that it was “not justified”.

Anglican Advocacy director Jolyon White says the latest coalition of signatories and recent advice from Parliament’s Social Services and Community committee that a bill banning letting fees should proceed gives the government a strong mandate to act, he says.

“A lack of regulation is causing harm to tenants and landlords alike, as well as to all the property managers out there who are striving to operate ethically and professionally.”

Renters United spokesperson Kate Day says property managers have the power to decide who gets housing.

“It’s unbelievable that someone can set themselves up as a property manager without any training, qualifications or understanding of their basic legal obligations.

“It’s also out of step with other sectors. Real estate agents have industry-specific regulation. So do builders, electricians, architects, engineers, plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers,” she says.

Kiri Barfoot, director of real estate and property management agency Barfoot & Thompson, says it has long voiced the need for regulation to help ensure both landlords and renters are better serviced and protected.

“Not to include the regulation of property managers in the government’s current reforms would be an opportunity lost,” she says.

With more than a third of Kiwis now renting, and demand continuing to increase, New Zealand needs to take this opportunity to ensure it has modern systems in place to meet the needs of both renters and landlords, Barfoot says.

Bindi Norwell, chief executive of the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, says it unequivocally stands by Anglican Advocacy’s call.

“Regulating the industry will ensure there are adequate consumer protections in place. It will also improve transparency and provide clear guidelines and expectations for the industry,” she says.

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