It’s that time of the year again, and we take a look back at the events that have impacted our industry in 2021.
Where do you start? 2021 has proven to be equally as eventful as 2020. COVID, housing crisis, social housing waitlist and a pretty dysfunctional heating calculator were all issues in 2020 and will continue to be issues going into 2022. Additionally, how the industry tackles the unvaccinated will be a complex and intriguing challenge that we will all have to tackle over the next few months.
However, that is in the future. For now we will turn our attention to the good, the bad and the ugly moments as we take a look back at 2021.
The Good: The Privacy Commission Guidelines
For too long, application forms were too long and arduous, asking for way too much information. Yes, landlords have a right to know who is going to be renting their property but likewise, we as an industry have a responsibility to protect tenants data and privacy and only collect information that is actually necessary.
Multiple credit checks with multiple agencies negatively impact prospective tenants’ credit history and this is unfair, particularly in a tight rental market. Any tenant who refuses to give consent to information being collected found themselves at a huge disadvantage in regards to being selected and because of this, many tenants felt that they have no option but to consent to so much information being collected.
The new recently released guidelines came about after John Edwards, the outgoing Privacy Commissioner, expressed concern after a ‘Bad Tenant’ database group had been established on Facebook. Mr Edwards is well known for his dislike of certain social media platforms and announced that the practises adopted by landlords and property managers were to be investigated.
Enter Jackie Adams, a tough, ex-police officer from Northern Ireland who is now the manager of Compliance and Enforcement for the Privacy Commission. He headed the investigation and had the responsibility to come up with new guidelines for landlords and property managers with regards to how they can select tenants and how they must manage the information they can collect.
The outcome is a great result for everyone as it gives clarity in regards to what we can collect and what we must do with the information once we have collected it. It also gives the Privacy Commission tools for enforcement as well as much needed protection of tenants and prospective tenants privacy. A great outcome all round.
The Bad: The Government
The party that was going to solve the housing crisis when they came to power in 2017 have completely lost their way and appear to be making policy on ‘the hoof’ in a forlorn attempt to control rising house prices and rising rents. There is a strong argument that many of their policies have simply made matters worse.
The issues started early in 2021. The Government looked like it was going to miss the deadline that they had set for much needed standards around methamphetamine contamination. The tribunal says 15 micrograms of methamphetamine constitutes contamination, in line with the Gluckman report whilst insurance companies are mainly going off the NZ Standards of 1.5 micrograms. This was meant to have been sorted out at the end of January 2021 as Government legislation stated that levels of contamination had to be set by then. That deadline passed and as we come to the end of the year, we are still no wiser.
Then, in March the Government announced plans to control house prices. Then they dropped a bombshell that no one saw coming. The removal of interest deductibility shocked everyone. This policy makes no sense whatsoever and has only led to further shortages of rental properties with rental inflation increasing at a much higher rate than normal. The latest Massey University Rental Report, fronted by professor Graham Squires showed that rents had increased 9.4% nationally in the year to June. This inevitably leads to more and more people turning to the state for assistance with an ever increasing social housing waitlist. There are now over 25,000 homes required.
We have seen little, if any action taken on regulating the property management industry even though this was an election promise, but then again, so was ‘no new taxes’!
In October, the Government resorted to announcing a joint policy with National. RMA reform is overdue but giving home owners the ability to subdivide and build new properties without consent of neighbours appears to be rushed and may have unintended negative consequences.
In November, they announced an inquiry into the high cost of building materials which is going to achieve absolutely nothing as there are many factors out of the Government’s control which are leading to such issues and this inquiry appears to be motivated purely to gain political points.
And finally, to finish off the year, the Government announces that the Heating Calculator that has been such an issue, particularly when it comes to new builds, is not fit for purpose and they are going to have to make adjustments.
2021 is a year to forget in regards to the Government’s track record on housing.