Government coughs up a whopping $0 informing renters of their new rights

March 19, 2021 3:56 pm

The Labour government brought in the second phase of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act in February. Were you aware of what these changes were?

Street polls done by Renters United showed that only between 1 in 5 and 1 in 9 renters were aware that any new legislation came into effect, let alone what it was.

Unlike most other industries, the property management industry is largely unregulated. There is no government body that actively searches for breaches of the Residential Tenancies Act, and so the burden falls entirely on renters throughout the country to enforce regulations.

It therefore makes sense that renters, who are expected to enforce their own rights, should be kept informed about new law changes by the government. The government spent $0 targeting information and education directly to renters.

Information released to Renters United, under the Official Information Act, shows the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) spent $2250 advertising new law changes in student magazines. There was no direct communication with renters, while they spent $16,314.30 targeting private landlords and property managers.

With rent prices skyrocketing, and profit margins increasing, landlords are already well resourced to carry out this research themselves. In fact, as renters, we pay them for the service of knowing the law and operating within it.

Working people often don’t have the time or resources to do the research themselves. Rental prices are swallowing an increasing amount of our income, forcing many to work longer hours. The last waking hours renters have left in their day shouldn’t be spent researching tenancy law changes.

In their official statement to Renters United, MBIE confirmed that relying on volunteers in tenant advocacy groups was a part of their delivery strategy. No mention was made in the response of additional resources provided to tenant advocacy groups to carry out this work. This comes at a time when said groups are pleading for extra funding as they become drowned in requests.

In a conversation with Renters United, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), confirmed that providing press releases was a key part of their strategy to deliver messaging to the public. HUD also confirmed that they were aware that the media was doing a poor job delivering this messaging, with a large amount of their time spent issuing corrections.

If the government is serious about making life easier for renters, they would commit to extra funding for tenants advocacy groups and start actively regulating landlords and the property management industry. The current situation is untenable.

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