On Wednesday 25th April, MAWSA sent in a submission for the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act with the hope of improving living standards for renting students.
MAWSA Vice-President of Engagement, Liam Davies, believes that it is the association’s responsibility to ensure the welfare of Massey University students. Many students’ wellbeing is dependent on having a healthy and safe living environment.
“We identified that many students live in conditions below standards, or are being ripped off by landlords,” Davies said.
“To create awareness of this on a national platform was an opportunity to have our voice heard and to hold those responsible to account.”
The amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 aim to alter the regulations placed on both renters and landlords in order to better serve modern renting situations.
Proposed changes include removing the ability for landlords to end a period tenancy with no cause, requiring fixed-term tenancy agreements become periodic tenancy agreements unless both parties agree otherwise and ensuring that tenants can add fittings – such as baby proofings and fire alarms – to make properties safer and more liveable.
The changes will also prohibit the solicitation of rental bids by landlords, meaning that renters are able to feel more secure in their properties.
“Prohibiting the solicitation of rental bids is a biggie,” Davies said.
“Currently, many students who are looking for a flat are competing with others with more money. Those who are financially better-off will up their offer – like an auction when buying a house.”
Another significant change is that landlords will only be allowed to increase rent once every twelve months, when previously this was once every six months.
“Currently, landlords can up rent every six months. With the amendments, this will change to once every 12 months, relieving a lot of stress that comes with the already expensive living situations,” he added.
He also outlined the significance of the changes that will suppress the details of tenants that lay a complaint about their rental property or landlord.
“Currently, if tenants lay a complaint, their details are then made available on the Tenancy Tribunal’s website,” he explained. “This leaves tenants in a vulnerable position of being blacklisted and refused when looking for other flats. This is particularly concerning for students who already struggle with finding places to live.”
When putting together their submission, the MAWSA Executive team was separated due to the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown period. However, Davies believed that this didn’t impede their submission. Instead, this allowed more time and care to be put into preparing a submission.
“Joe (the MAWSA Secretary) and I met via Zoom often and compiled our ideas onto a Google Doc,” Liam explained. “And we discussed the Bill with other Executive members via Zoom in our weekly meetings.”
“The only hindrance the lockdown had on our submission would’ve been that we miss physically submitting at Parliament. Before lockdown, we were preparing an oral submission on the Urban Development Bill.”