Renters are having to move less frequently but security of tenure for many remains much lower than homeowners, according to data released today by Te Kāhui Tika Tangata, the Human Rights Commission’s housing inquiry.
“Security of tenure means people and families can choose when and if they want to move rather than be forced to move.
“It is a crucial dimension of the right to a decent home, and so we’re pleased to see improvement in recent years.
“Having security of tenure gives a household a sense of control over its current and future housing circumstances,” says Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt.
“Aotearoa New Zealand historically has a poor record on tenure security, with few regulations protecting tenants and few opportunities for long-term tenancies,” says Hunt.
However, the Commission sees signs of improvement. Between 2006 and 2018 the proportion of people living in their home for less than a year, decreased from 24.2 percent in 2006 to 19.8 percent in 2018.
Hunt says on top of this small improvement, the government’s amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act in 2020 are likely to have improved tenure security, but the data hasn’t caught up with that yet.
Without security of tenure, renters can be forced to move and may have little choice in the timing of that move.
“People who are unable to access secure housing may end up homeless. This is particularly concerning given the institutional racism Māori and Pacific renters have experienced.
“Weak security of tenure can also have a terrible impact on children who in some cases have to move school each time they move rental property. This creates stress for children and prevents them from settling in,” says Hunt.
In this instance, Hunt says there has been enough improvement for the government to receive a ‘pass’ from the Human Rights Commission. However, the government has a continual obligation to ‘progressively realise’ security of tenure.
“We encourage the government to continue to improve the rental system so that it offers renters with stable long-term decent housing,” says Hunt.
The Commission is asking the public to share their experiences of renting to inform its housing inquiry on its recently launched website housing.hrc.co.nz.
- The full data release is available at https://housing.hrc.co.nz/a_decent_home_has_security_of_tenure
- Tenure security is defined as the guarantee of legal protection to stay in a home, including due process in relation to eviction, discrimination, harassment and other unfair treatment.
- The Guidelines on the Right to a Decent Home outline:
- Tenure, which has a cultural dimension, takes a variety of forms, including Māori systems of land tenure, owner-occupation, rental (public and private), individual and collective, cooperative housing, social housing and emergency housing. It should take account of the interests of children, at-risk adults, all family types, and people of all abilities, stages of life and cultures. Tenure places obligations on all parties, including tenants who have a responsibility to treat with respect other occupiers, landlords, neighbours and their community (Para 61).
- People renting social housing provided by local or central government, community housing providers, or Iwi, hapū or Māori land trust have historically had better tenure security. However, changes made from the early 1990s to the 2010s, such as the Social Housing Reform Act in 2013, brought in reviewable tenancies to Housing New Zealand (now Kāinga Ora), ending the era of a state home for life.
- Although the government has introduced standards around rental housing, the Healthy Housing Standards generally rely on education and compliance, and enforcement often requires a tenant being prepared to complain to the Tenancy Tribunal (see housing habitability). Tenants may be reluctant to do so if they are concerned about endangering their tenancy. Insecure housing tenure and poor-quality housing can go hand-in-hand and are significant barriers to the realisation of the right to a decent home.
Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act in 2020 include:
- Rent increases: Rent increases are limited to once every 12 months. This is a change from once every 180 days (six months).
- Security of rental tenure: Landlords are not able to end a periodic tenancy without cause. New termination grounds are available to landlords under a periodic tenancy and the required notice periods have changed.
- Changes for fixed-term tenancies: Fixed term tenancies signed after 11 February 2021 convert to periodic tenancies at the end of the fixed term unless the parties agree otherwise, the tenant gives a 28-day notice, or the landlord gives notice in accordance with the termination grounds for periodic tenancies.