Conditions & protections for renters

The proportion of people renting in Aotearoa New Zealand is increasing. A third of New Zealanders now rent their homes. Renters have just as much of a human right to a decent home as those who own their homes. But as we measure progress on the right to a decent home, data shows that renters are less likely to find their housing affordable than homeowners and have significantly worse housing quality – both key elements of the right to a decent home.

We are also concerned that renters are asked to do too much to hold landlords and property managers to account, instead of being able to rely on the government to enforce its own standards like Healthy Homes. We’ve also heard from renters that they are too afraid to go to the Tenancy Tribunal because it will affect their future chances in the rental system.

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Conditions and protections for renters


"The cost in particular is so inhibitive it restricts you into the future into a cycle of renting. Costs for up and vastly outstrip pay increases.
[I've] had both good and bad property managers. Currently have a property manager who values us as tenants and supports us into we options. Others have exploited sand sought very personal information in order to assess our suitability.

The tenancy tribunal is daunting and often not worth it for minor issues. The risk of being blacklisted too makes you feel powerless.

We had to provide very personal and over the top information for our rental applications which are violations of our privacy but we had no choice because it's a competition with 20-30 other potential tenants. Desperate to have a roof over our and our children's heads we provided things that the landlord or agent has no right to. Additionally needing to take time off work to view properties in order to apply for rentals is immensely difficult.

Housing is a right and tenants are not a commodity to be exploited. Profits for landlords who already have both wealth and housing security should not be the primary purpose of housing. Housing is a service."

"As a sole parent I moved more than ten times over my children's' primary and secondary schooling. It cost a lot to move and was often because housing was inadequate- moldy cold and damp which made both my and my sons asthma worse, or if it was nicer, it would be only a matter of time before the rent went up to over 60% of my income or the landlord told me she was selling it or moving family in.... there was no security of tenure...eventually after living in an outdoor shed at my sisters for three months with both my kids I got a council flat (only two bedroom but I was happy to sleep in the lounge and give both my kids a room each.) Later on I got into a relationship and in a couple we bought a house with no deposit but two ok incomes made this possible. After 10 years I left this relationship and unfortunately came out with very little financial it was back to insecure rentals, but this time with an older teenage daughter and then my son as he needed to move back in aged 21. For a while, cramped over inflated three bedroom flat, again for 60% of my income, which meant saving to try and buy a home felt impossible again.


I am now 53, and though both my children are in there twenties, I am still really hard struggling to save for a home to buy despite saving. I moved onto my mums property and got a rental cabin to save costs while I have saved. I have been looking at short term contracts in Australia to try and save quickly enough to be able to buy a one as I'm worried now about ageism in terms of how financial lenders view people with less than 15 years until retirement age. It really plays on my mind that I have no housing security. If there were decent local council run homes with access to green space, gardens and stability of tenure, I would feel less insecure than I do when faced with the private rental market where ageism also applies.

When one of my young adult children was unwell I needed to find a rental for myself and my adult child, it was impossible. Every flat viewing meant waiting in queues with what seemed like at least 50 younger people and there was a definite bias towards a younger professional couple in the rental market. This meant that we eventually moved into a substandard flat which was overpriced for what it was. Existing only on my income at this time. It got to the point where I was spending more than I earned to live so had to move out of the rea and find a new job somewhere a lot cheaper which was luckily possible but caused a breakdown in my and my young adult child's relationship.

Even though I haven't been personally in need of emergency accommodation I work with pregnant women and new mothers who are by necessity in emergency accommodation and they are often really isolated from support and feel quite unsafe. I have had many flats in my time where landlords didn't respect tenancy rights or failed to maintain the property to a fit standard. My best flat was a council flat but it was income tested and as soon as I was $50 above the income threshold per week I knew I needed to move on before the next review so that meant going back into an over priced private rental market.

I feel our whole system is set up in a way that housing is a commodity rather than the focus being on housing as a human right. People who already have a home leverage against that to buy one more or two more or three or more... I know some people who have bought one extra and I can see why they have (to help a grown up child into housing often as co-owners) but so many people haven't got that option now. I think there should be restrictions on how many houses one person/private company can buy and only "not for profit" community trusts or local councils or iwi/hapū providers should be able to own for rental more than for houses. They need to be audited also to ensure they are meeting regulations around provision of accessible, affordable and livable community housing.

I also think banking regulations should restrict how many houses people can buy. They could do this by raising LTV ratios for investors to having to have a 30% deposit for one extra home, 50% deposit for a third and 100% deposit for a fourth. For first home buyers it should be 5% deposit so that first home buyers have an advantage, rather than how it is now where they are disadvantaged.

Change the laws around tax and banking finance regulations to reduce commodification of housing, and build more houses."


*Susan's name has been changed in this experience to protect their identity

"Biggest problem other than affordability and availability is the number of restrictions on the type of housing and the areas that are suitable. I need a standalone property that gives me peace, space and privacy. High density housing makes me anxious and stressed. I have health problems with air pollution and react badly to extreme heat and cold. I need access to libraries with a computer, banks, post office and public transport.


Emergency housing is too noisy and crowded. Conditions for renters are rents are too high and no landlords reference. Rentals are unstable and anxiety inducing.


I have received discrimination from politicians and social agencies because I am childless and having all these restrictions on the type of housing that is suitable for me. My housing situation is complex and different to most people


[My message for decision makers is] more variety in the type of housing, not just high rise buildings and apartments. Be mindful in designing housing."


“Children living in cold, damp, unhealthy homes can not engage in their education on the same footing as children who don't. This entrenches disadvantage across generations.

As a solo mum with 4 kids, I lived in a rural property that repeatedly ran out of water. I'm a lawyer but it was incredibly stressful, and despite my relative privilege, I found the current ways to resolve problems with landlords were not effective.

It shouldn't be left to renters to navigate living in a decent home. Many are living in challenging circumstances already, and leaving it to them to obtain their rights adds another layer of stress onto an already stressful life.

If you want to ensure equal opportunity and equity, one of the fundamental building blocks is living in a decent home. People need access to housing that is healthy and secure. It's critical to ensuring we have a decent society. For those that choose to become a landlord, it should be on the basis they provide a healthy, decent home. Tenants can't choose to be a tenant or not, but becoming a landlord is a choice.”



“My partner and I are lucky that we can afford a fairly decent place to rent. We used to aspire to own our own home but realistically there's no way we'll ever get to that stage, especially since rent and other expenses keep going up and incomes stay the same. Lately we're more focused on and worried about continuing to be able to afford the same quality of life we have now (and not having to downgrade our housing because we can't afford a fairly decent home anymore).

The legislation is mostly there (although it could be better - insulation in the walls would be nice) but there's no real way to make sure it's enforced. It takes forever to get anything through the tenancy tribunal and then the tenant's name is attached to that case forever, and there's always the fear that future landlords won't want to rent to you because they'll think you're a difficult tenant.”


*Marty's name has been changed in this experience to protect their identity.