The Good, Bad and Ugly for 2019

Government intervention the theme of the year as we take our traditional look at the last 12 months.

It hasn’t been an easy year for anybody associated with our industry. In terms of renting in New Zealand, 2019 continued where 2018 left off. Changes in legislation. Landlords complaining about too much state intervention and tenants complaining about high rents and a shortage of stock.

Don’t expect too much to change in 2020 as this Government tries to implement all of its election promises before we all head to the polling booths again.

Anyway, it is time for us to take a look back on what was another eventful year for our industry as we take our now annual review of the year which includes the good, bad and ugly for 2019.

The Good

The Call For Change Campaign: It has been difficult to find any real positives in a challenging year, but the launch of A Call For Change campaign launched by REINZ back in September in an attempt to regulate the Property Management industry has probably been the best. On the last count, nearly 80 agencies, Property Management companies, advocacy groups and community organisations are now supporting this. 

The launch of 'A Call For Change' was our highlight of 2019 but more needs to be done.

There is no doubt that since Bindi Norwell was appointed as CEO of REINZ, there has been a real focus by the organisation to raise the profile of Property Management. For the first time ever, REINZ has appointed a resource who is solely dedicated to Property Management in Jo Rae, the Head of Property Management. 

In the past, people have been critical of REINZ with their attitude and apparent lack of dedication to Property Management. There may have been some validity in this argument in the past, but no one can accuse REINZ of paying lip service to the industry now. REINZ has showed renewed focus and long may it continue.

It hasn't all been positive however around the campaign. It desperately needs to keep the momentum going and there is a risk that it could run out of steam as other things become a focus or a priority for REINZ. The campaign has also been discredited by PROMINZ, the newly branded Property Management Institute of New Zealand, after their President, David Pearse called the campaign a ‘Cunning and devious plan’ designed to promote REINZ Property Managers. This was during an interview held on Radio New Zealand Morning Report programme.

Listen to the Morning Report interview with Bindi Norwell and David Pearse

Some of Mr Pearse’s comments have been nothing short of outrageous. He was also quoted in the New Zealand Herald stating “Real Estate agencies gave poor service because of their greed and making property managers into slaves by having them manage up to three times the number of properties that they can effectively manage." Comments such as this only damages our industry further, and if someone is going to make comments like this, they have to back it up with facts and not solely their own personal opinion. For the campaign to get further momentum, PROMINZ would be doing our industry a service by putting their support to this campaign. I'm sure A Call For Change was not designed to be a 'REINZ are better than the rest' campaign, the greater good means all organisations should get behind this regardless of what you are a member of.

That aside, the industry slowly but surely is starting to find a voice. As an industry, we manage over 40% of the 600,000 rental properties and this number will only continue to grow. 

Although new Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi has initially ruled out the regulation of the industry, I for one am confident that they will recognise the importance of having some structure and regulation around Property Management. Over a quarter a million of residential dwellings are now under the management of a Property Manager so surely it is only a matter of time before the change actually does happen.

Other mentions: 

The rise of Proptech: Property Technology companies or Proptech as it is more commonly known is a hugely exciting development for our industry. Many are headed by young entrepreneurs who are challenging the status quo. At our conference that we held with Palace in March, Michael Abbott, the CEO of Palace said that the Property Management industry was in its infancy. Those comments stuck with me as we are finally starting to learn how to use the data our industry creates. I for one wholeheartedly agree. Also, you have to give credit to the Privacy Commissioner who listened to the criticism of their original guidelines and reformed them to give more clarity as to what you can and cannot ask for when selecting a tenant.

The Bad

Swamp House Tribunal Decision: Remember the ‘Papakura swamp house?’

We reported on the dilemma of tenants Dawn Robbie and Cameron Taylor last December. This young couple with their two daughters rented their three-bedroom property in Papakura. Unknown to them when they rented the property, blocked drains and malfunctioning stormwater lead to an ankle-deep swamp under the property and an unusable flooded yard every time it rained.

Underneath the infamous Papakura Swamp House. Atrocious conditions for the tenants to tolerate.

Their 11-month-old daughter at the time had serious health issues and was admitted to the ICU unit in Middlemore Hospital due to severe bronchitis that was brought on by mould in the property. All of this for $520 a week in rent.

The Tenancy Compliance Investigation Team took the landlord to Tenancy Tribunal on behalf of the tenants and even went to the lengths of getting the tenants to sign an NDA so they could not talk to the media about the case.

They finally had their day in Tenancy Tribunal in November 2019 and this looked a straight forward case. The landlord had clearly breached their responsibilities due to the flooding and damage caused by the flooding. The tenant's health had been severely affected by the poor condition of the property and compensation was certainly due. Tribunal agreed yet the sum of money paid out to the tenants was pitiful for what this couple had to tolerate. Compensation of $4,000 and exemplary damages of only $1,000 were awarded to the tenants. The latter was only 25% of the maximum penalty that could be awarded by the adjudicator. Why so little?

When you read the decision which is available online it leaves you scratching your head and asking yourself has justice really been served? You also have to question the ability and judgment of the adjudicator. Adjudicator Benvie makes reference to Boarding House legislation which is utterly irrelevant. Then the adjudicator defends the decision by saying that the landlord did not intentionally commit the breach. This is ridiculous. According to Adjudicator Benvie, the landlord must deliberately flood the property to be liable for the full amount of exemplary damages. As if a landlord is going to do that!

Mr Raj, the landlord, knew it was an issue for an extended period of time and simply did nothing about it. He should have had the book thrown at him. In this case, the punishment nowhere near fitted the crime.

Watch the video about the Papakura swamp house. When you see what the tenants had to tolerate, $5,000 seems like a slap in the face.

Other mentions:

Leaving insulation to the last minute has caused a number of problems for many. The lessons we have to learn from this as we tackle the Healthy Homes is not to leave it to the landlords as many of them simply will not get it done. Also, a shortage of rental stock continues to be a major issue. The current Government promised to eradicate poverty and made housing it’s number one priority in its election campaign of 2017. They even went as far as asking that the then National Government declare a 'National state of emergency' due to the housing crisis. However, people on the waitlist for public housing has now reached 14,000. This has more than doubled since the Coalition Government came to power. Many of these families are now falling into the private rental sector. The approach of targeting landlords has backfired and I still do not see any state of emergency being declared.

The Ugly

Property Managers continue to face risk and abuse: With property, there is always lots of emotion. For landlords, in many cases, it is their nest egg and they may have previously lived in the property meaning that they will have a strong emotional attachment to the property. For tenants, it is their home and many are paying over-inflated prices for a second hand and substandard product.

With this, the financial pressure that is placed on both landlord and tenant has grown in large down to Government policies. The pressure leads to aggression and abuse as Property Managers often become scapegoats to problems that they cannot control. Other factors that have led to the rise in abuse are Property Managers simply trying to educate landlords on what they need to do to have a compliant property. Many landlords do not like it as the costs associated with compliance continue to hurt margins. This will only continue as we inspect the thousands of rental properties for compliance with the Healthy Homes Standards.

Tenants can also be abusive and we have heard of direct threats of violence to Property Managers. Social Media also does not help. Tenants and their associates vent and sometimes become abusive online. This is gutless but unfortunately, it now comes with the territory. 

More needs to be done to protect Property Managers from abusive clients and a ‘zero tolerance’ approach should be taken by our industry. This is where the 90-Day No-cause termination has its place. There is simply no need for the removal of this as tenants already have plenty of rights to protect them from being evicted unfairly.

It has been over two years since our industry was rocked by the shooting of two Property Managers in Northland. Has anything changed?

I cannot help but feel that we have failed to learn lessons from the tragic events of two years ago when two Property Managers were shot dead by a tenant. Property Managers walk into difficult situations all the time and the job can almost feel more like being a social worker rather than a Property Manager. As the financial burden of renting continues to see more and more families forced into desperate situations, Property Managers are often treated poorly. If it becomes too hard to move on antisocial tenants, this will only get worse. 

More needs to be done in this area going forward particularly if we are to attract and retain good people within the industry. Leaving the 90-day no-cause termination as it is, is a step in the right direction.

Other Mentions:

Anti-social behaviour seems to go unpunished if you are a tenant of Kainga Ora, the organisation that was formerly known as Housing New Zealand. The soft friendly let’s all hold hands together stance that the Government has taken to tenants in state-owned properties is starting to cause some grievances. Recently I received a call from a Hamilton Property Manager seeking advice as they have tenants wanting to break a lease due to their neighbours, Kainga Ora tenants fighting in the street every weekend and threatening neighbours. These gang-affiliated tenants look like they are going to staying for a long time as pleas to Kainga Ora have fallen on deaf ears. There was not a lot I could offer in assistance.

Dealing with tragedy and why our industry does not get the recognition it deserves

2019 has seen some horrendous events in our country and too many families have been struck by tragedy in the last 12 months. The Christchurch shooting was particularly disturbing. As a country, we felt like we lost our innocence on that fateful day in March. Christchurch Property Managers have had to deal with tragedy and disaster in the past following the earthquakes but one Property Manager from Ironbridge won the hearts and minds of all at the LPMA Conference. 

Not long after the shooting, a Property Manager found a tenant hiding whilst doing a routine inspection. This tenant had been in one of the Mosques when the shootings took place and were clearly in a distressed state. The tenant was terrified and in desperate need of help. The Property Manager went above and beyond in helping this tenant. They made sure that the tenant got the support they needed and spent time reassuring the tenant that they would be ok. It is a shame as I cannot remember her name, but it highlights the qualities that we know our industry has. It's funny how stories such as this do not get mentioned in the media.

Make sure that you take good care of yourselves over the holiday period. Have a great Christmas and we will see you in 2020. 

Signing off for 2019

 

David Faulkner


Church preachers 'game changer' as calls for regulation intensify

  • Property institute claim to be 'game changers' for property management
  • We believe that governance through the REA is the only logical solution

Never before has our industry come under such intense scrutiny as it has right now. Whether it be tenant groups, politicians, the media or the oppressive Tenancy Compliance and Investigation Team, everyone wants to attack Property Managers. In fairness, we seem to be giving them plenty of ammunition and the latest faux pas by a Wellington-based Property Management company was embarrassingly distasteful. One wonders what they must have been thinking.

With all the negative publicity and an increasingly vocal call from all parties to regulate our industry, it is now a case of when the regulation of our industry will happen rather than if.

The focus should now turn to what regulation will look like and, as an industry, we seem to be heading in two different directions.

The main discussion is whether Property Management will self-regulate as has been suggested by some influential figures within the property sector, or whether the Government should become the regulator. If you read between the lines and listen to what Housing Minister Phil Twyford says, it appears that the Government do not have regulation high on the agenda.  The amount of bad publicity and calls from all sectors, especially renting groups who are traditionally Labour supporters, will likely have the Government re-evaluating their position.

We are starting to see two very different opinions coming through from two different organisations.

VOTE NOW: Should we be regulated and if so how?

Firstly we look at the smaller but well supported Independent Property Management Association (IPMA). They appear to be very much in the self-regulation camp after aligning themselves with the Property Institute of New Zealand (PINZ). Ashley Church, CEO of PINZ announced their partnership under much fanfare back in July claiming it to be a 'Game Changer' for the Property Management industry. Time will tell if this will be the case.

REINZ CEO Bindi Norwell with Housing Minister Phil Twyford at the recent REINZ Conference in Auckland

The opinion we favour and has been voiced by REINZ is the case for regulation under the REA. In our opinion, this is the only logical answer to help solve the issues that have consistently plagued our industry and will provide greater assurances for both tenants and landlords alike.

We fear that Twyford may take the soft option and seek the industry to self-regulate as the Government may not want to create more work for themselves. This will be the likely middle ground that will leave the Government claiming that they took steps without actually taking any responsibility.

How did we get here?

The problems started over a decade ago when the then Associate Justice Minister Clayton Cosgrove introduced a bill that stripped REINZ of its then self-regulating powers and we saw the birth of the Real Estate Agents Authority (now known as the REA). Before the evolution of the REA, to work as a Property Manager leasing property, you had to have your salesperson certificate. As the axe fell on self-regulation and the REA was introduced, it was decided that Property Management should be left out. I remember this time well as around 2010 I was invited to participate in the REINZ Property Management Sector Group. At the time it was discussed that most of the complaints REINZ received were about Property Managers and it was decided that the REA would not have the resources to deal with so many complaints. Therefore, it was decided that Property Management would be left out, meaning anyone could become a Property Manager without any qualification.

The new elected National Government amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act in 2010 escalated the issue, thus allowing anybody operating as a property manager the ability to charge letting fees. Previously only REINZ members were able to do this. This opened the floodgates as new Property Management companies started everywhere, leading to the situation that we have now. A proliferation of small unqualified Property Management companies governed by no one has led to a drop in standards.

Deregulation of our industry has failed.

Game changer claims

It seems that after ten years, we have come full circle and the status quo cannot remain. The question is what will Twyford do next?

We know that Minister Twyford has met with IPMA and with Ashley Church of PINZ and if I was a betting man, I would predict that Twyford will take the IPMA and PINZ preferred position of self-regulation, governed by PINZ.

Ashley Church of the Property Institute claims that their relationship with IPMA is a 'game changer' for the Property Management industry. Time will tell if he is correct.

If PINZ and IPMA get their way we will be looking at PINZ to set the standards on what best practice will look like and one would suspect they would have their own in-house disciplinary procedures for rogue Property Managers.

Ashley Church has two years to prove to the current Government that they have what it takes. PINZ are predicting many more Property Management companies will switch to IPMA as part of their new initiative and IPMA chair Karen Withers makes the bold claim that their members already represent the pinnacle of the Property Management industry.

One must applaud such an initiative. It adds greater credibility to IPMA and will give them more profile. As such, they can start to influence Government policy and in particular around the Residential Tenancies Act.

But does this mean that we will all become members of IPMA and will PINZ be telling us how to run our industry?

Self regulation flawed

In principle, any suggestion of self-regulation is better than the current situation however on a second look at the idea, I do have serious concerns about the practicality of such a plan.

For this idea to have any merit we will need to see the big players switch from REINZ to IPMA and this is highly unlikely. Under the current IPMA constitution, REINZ members cannot take up IPMA membership. Can you imagine the likes of Barfoot and Thompson walking away from REINZ to become a member of IPMA? Me neither!

If IPMA get their way, REINZ will set their own criteria, they partly have already with their Accreditation programme. This would split the industry in two.

It also goes against what Labour stood for 10 years ago when Clayton Cosgrove opposed the self-regulating powers of REINZ - so why should Property Management be any different and can you guarantee that PINZ will run it differently or any better than the way REINZ ran the industry 10 years ago?

My main concern is this will become too confusing for the consumer. Whether we like it or not, there will be multiple times where issues cross the boundary between residential sales and property management and as such having to go to two separate bodies to raise issues will not be practical.

As an example. A house is managed by ABC Property Managers and the landlord decides to sell with Anne Agent Real Estate. The house is sold but there is confusion around possession date and subsequently, incorrect notice is given to the tenants meaning the purchaser cannot move in on the date they settle. Both ABC Property Management and Anne Agent Real Estate blame each other for the mistake. The delay costs thousands as well as the emotional distress it causes the purchaser, the vendor and the tenants. The purchaser decides to log a formal complaint.

  • Who do they complain to - REA, PINZ or both?
  • What happens if different regulators come up with different conclusions?
  • What happens if both regulators end up blaming the other party?
  • Does the purchaser have to fill out two separate complaint forms?
  • Are there different appeal processes?

Whether you like it or not, there is simply too much crossover between residential sales and property management. Although there is clearly a difference in the service that both sales and property management offer, ultimately, they are dealing with the same product, real estate. Therefore, keeping it regulated under one roof is the only logical answer. Having it any other way is too confusing and can lead to inconsistencies.

In this diagram, we try to show the different parties that can be involved in a transaction involving the sale of an investment property. It simply makes sense for the REA to be the regulator, keeping the process simple for consumers. Tenants would continue to deal directly with Tenancy Tribunal and not the REA yet if a landlord has an issue with their property manager, they can complain directly to REA.

REA the only way forward

When you look at what the REA covers it seems ludicrous that Property Management is left out. Leasing of commercial real estate is a prime example. To do commercial leasing you have to operate under the boundaries of the REA - yet leasing a residential property is deemed not to come under REA. For companies that run real estate in conjunction with property management, this can unfairly expose them to risk.

I have thought about how regulation would look for some time now and back in February of 2015 when I first started consulting I wrote an article proposing how regulation should look. Not a lot has changed in my opinion.

Read article on regulation written February 2015

What I proposed for property management is as follows.

  • Compulsory qualifications for Property Managers: Do we financially benefit from this as a company? Yes, of course we do, but can anyone seriously argue that being qualified as a Property Manager does not benefit the individual, the company they work for and their consumers whether they be tenants or landlords? I truly believe that knowledge is power and lack of knowledge of the Residential Tenancies Act within our industry always astounds me. Since delivering the New Zealand Residential Property Management Level 4 qualification we have seen a nearly 80% increase in uptake since the previous year. We expect to get very busy in the next twelve months.
  • Compulsory verified and non-verified training: Replicate what happens in real estate. Our industry is constantly dealing with change whether it be through legislation, technology or consumer demands. 10 hours on verified and non-verified training has helped real estate. It will also benefit property management.
  • Mandatory Trust Accounting: Professional Property Management is about trust and transparency. The money collected does not belong to a Property Management company, it belongs to the client who will give a small percentage to the company for managing their asset. Yet too few companies actually use a trust account. Money that does not belong to the company can easily be used for business expenses and it is way too easy to deceive your consumer.
  • Compulsory Auditing of Trust Accounts: Under section 125 of the Real Estate Agents Act 2008 the agent's trust accounts must be audited and the REA has the power to appoint an auditor to audit accounts at any time. When you think of the millions of dollars that are held in an account over a twelve month period, being audited is an absolute necessity.
  • Criminal record checks on employees:Again this is about establishing trust with the consumers. Property Managers will enter 100's of houses throughout the year. They will do approximately 500 inspections a year and will be potentially managing millions of dollars of landlords income and tenant bonds. You want to know the person doing this has no unpleasant history.
  • Extend the powers of the REA:Put Property Management under this as well. There has to be some discussion as to what authority they have and what constitutes a worthwhile complaint. You cannot have the authority bogged down with small complaints. This was the original issue back in 2008. Landlords would get upset because their expectations around what constitutes reasonably clean may not have been met. Let the REA deal with cases where the claims are for a significant dollar amount. There will have to be clear boundaries put in place for this. Also, give the REA powers so they can penalise companies or individuals or even ban them from operating.
  • Transparent complaints procedure: Every property management company should issue landlords a copy of their complaints procedure and tenants should also be given booklets on what to do if they have an issue that cannot be resolved. The reality is only a handful of property management companies actually have a transparent complaints procedure and many have no procedure at all.
  • Tenant charges clearly displayed: This is a step we have taken from the UK. If tenants break a contract they should be charged for the re-letting of that property. However, to avoid confusion and disputes, those fees should be clearly outlined along with how they are calculated before any tenant signs the Tenancy Agreement. Again, this helps establish transparency and trust.
  • Compulsory training for private landlords:  This is a new suggestion. If you are a landlord you are in business and it can no longer be treated as a hobby. As letting fees being charged to tenants are banned and the responsibility for fees is with the owner, we may see more landlords choose to manage the property themselves. This will cause potential issues as many landlords may have great intentions but do not have the skill set or knowledge to manage a residential tenancy.

The argument put forward by many of the people who oppose regulation under REA is that property management will just become a second-class citizen to residential sales. 10 years ago, I would have agreed, however, I firmly believe that opinion is changing. The true value of any real estate business is in the rent roll, not in the sales. Rather than property management being poor cousins, I see us as the rich uncle or auntie who looks after the family silver. We also have a changing generation as the baby boomers sell up and retire, a new breed of business owner is emerging. They understand the value of a high performing property management business and the companies that thrive will focus on property management first, not the other way round.

Many people may think I take such a stance because of our association with REINZ. That is not the case, however, I do take umbrage when individuals make comments suggesting our stance is commercially motivated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every decision we make as a company has the industry's well being at heart. It actually makes commercial sense for us to keep quiet. However, I once received some great advice when I was on the REINZ committee from the brilliant Hayley Stevenson of Housesmart in Queenstown. "You can sit on the sideline and whine or you can get on the playing field and speak up for what you believe". I choose to do the latter.

Our industry has taken an absolute hammering over recent times. Yet in spite of this, I remain optimistic that good will come out of all the bad publicity that has been associated with Property Management. There is now a strong sense that change is coming. One hopes that the Government listens to all parties and think their decisions through very very carefully. The next few months are critical for our industry and we cannot afford to get it wrong.


meth-testing-patch-on-wall

New meth standards will solve nothing until practice notes issued

  • Opinion split on the risk from meth contamination
  • BRANZ report states 1600 kiwis die every winter due to poor condition of housing
  • Methsolutions defy REINZ stance on property managers doing testing

Late last month the eagerly anticipated new standards around Methamphetamine contamination were released. This has come after a lengthy process which also involved a large amount of public submissions. Clearly, there is plenty of emotion involved around this hugely controversial topic. This was evident during the recent REINZ Seminar involving members of the panel that helped introduce the new standards. Included on the panel where Lisa Gerrard (REINZ), Darryl Thompson (Auckland Council), Miles Stratford (MethSolutions) and lawyer Richard Hern.

The seminar was held in conjunction with the release of the new standards and many left the seminar with more questions than answers as opinion appears to be split on what is deemed a safe and acceptable level of contamination for a property to be lived in.

Although no one doubts the issues around Meth in society, there is large debate around how much of a risk low levels of contamination are to the public and also to residents who live in such houses. The new NZS 8510 standards that have been set are as follows.

  • Contamination cannot exceed 1.5 micrograms per 100cm2 for high level areas (living areas, garages)
  • Contamination cannot exceed 3.8 micrograms per 100cm2 for low level areas (under a property or in the attic)
  • Qualifications will be available for Meth testers however, this is still some time away

With insurance giant IAG setting a precedent with its stance around Meth, it seems unlikely that the new NZS 8510 Standards will impact its stance on refusing to pay out on claims where it cannot be established when the contamination took place.

Should property managers do meth testing? Vote now

Property Managers doing Meth Testing? No problem according to Miles

Probably the most controversial moment of the REINZ seminar was Miles Stratford’s stance that Property Managers did not have a conflict of interest if they carried out testing - even though Lisa Gerrard and Richard Hern advised the room of Property Managers not to engage in Meth testing and leave it to an independent company.

We questioned Mr Stratford about his relationship with Bolitho Property Management in Nelson who are certified Meth Testers trained by MethSolutions. We asked Mr Stratford whether he disagreed with the stance of REINZ and of lawyer Richard Hern. After pressing him he finally said yes he disagreed with REINZ.

Lisa Gerrard of REINZ advised members at a recent seminar to stay well clear of testing. Only one person disagreed on the panel.

How big is the risk?

The need for Head Adjudicator Melissa Poole to release Practice Notes is now becoming critical as going to Tenancy Tribunal is almost like playing Russian Roulette as different adjudicators have differing opinions, highlighted in some of the rulings that we have researched. We sympathise with the role the adjudicators face as they are clearly as confused as we are as to how big the risk is. The main bone of contention is whether a property with a ruling of under 1.5 micrograms per 100cm2 is reasonably clean. Opinion is split.

1st June 2017, J Tunnicliffe awards cleaning and testing against the tenant despite readings of only 0.89 micrograms per 100cm2. This is due to the property not being left in a reasonable clean condition at the end of a tenancy.

30th November 2016, A Macpherson throws out a claim by tenants for full compensation of rent after a third full diagnostic report found that after 12 samples were taken none exceed 1.5 micrograms and only one exceeds 0.5 micrograms. This is the first major case to refer to the new “Review of Remediation Standards” which was carried out in October last year.

  • 13th June 2016, W Lang awards $35,764.72 to the landlord after detailed results show the property is contaminated with the highest reading being 2.6 in the hall.
  • 18th August 2016, D Malcolm states that LJ Hooker are jointly liable for $6,788.44 only because they stated that they were the landlord on the tenancy agreement
  • 11th April 2017, J Setefano states that Barfoot and Thompson are liable for $15,020.44 which contradicts the previous order by D Malcolm.
  • 19th April 2017, D Cullen dismisses a claim for Meth cleaning and decontamination. This was after Debra Young from Methsolutions gives evidence to suggest that undetected levels of methamphetamine can bleed through a surface over time and decontamination cleaning can elevate levels of methamphetamine detected in a home.

The only real way we will get certainty on how to proceed is for Ms. Poole to come out with Practice Notes around how Tribunal should rule on different levels of Meth contamination.

Real-iQ are advising clients that according to the ruling by A Macpherson in the case between Forkett and Lodge City Rentals, anything under 1.5 micrograms is an acceptable standard and there is no reason why a tenancy should not commence.

Are Testing company adverts misleading?

One issue we do have here at Real-iQ is the advertising and press releases around how many properties tested are contaminated. You will see companies portraying the problem that 40% of properties tested are contaminated. However, results will pick up levels as little as 0.02 micrograms per 100cm 2. In a recent webinar, Miles Stratford states that of the 40% which come back positive, 30% would be over the 1.5 micrograms reading from baseline tests. This means that only 12% would be over the new standards and this is for baseline testing. The reality is that if you did the detailed discrete testing the results would be even lower, probably under 5%.

That is a big difference from 40%.

Miles Stratford gives his opinion on this webinar around the new standards. Click the video to watch

1600 Kiwis die each year through cold housing according to BRANZ

Unfortunately, as winter grips, the real problem around New Zealand housing is overlooked as Meth continues to dominate the news. A recent article in the Listener magazine referred to a BRANZ report highlighting that as many as 1600 Kiwis die each winter due to the poor condition of the properties they live in. Unsurprisingly, tenants are most at risk. In our opinion, this is real problem that needs to be addressed around rental properties in New Zealand.

1600 people dying unnecessarily is a national disgrace yet we aren't aware of anybody dying from living in a property with low levels of Meth contamination.

Testing companies will push Tribunal and local councils to have as lower levels of acceptable readings as possible, arguing that a property is not clean if it has traces of Meth. They will be the main benefactor from lower Meth readings.

Insurance companies will also be diving for cover forcing landlords and prospective purchasers to spend money on testing whilst we all wait for Tribunal to give us some guidance as to how to tackle this problem.

At Real-iQ, we are advising clients to recommend that testing is done inbetween tenancies but this is ultimately the landlords decision. The only reason we are doing this is to protect our clients from litigation.

We are hopeful that Practice Notes will be released soon and we do not have to wait too long for qualifications to be established for the Meth Testing industry.

Meanwhile as winter truly bites, thousands of Kiwi's battle sickness and ill health caused by the cold and damp properties, many of them are tenants and struggle to make ends meet. Surely we have our priorities wrong and this should be our focus.