Landlords are worried about tenants asking to paint their rental properties after of the biggest tenancy law overhaul in 35 years is activated next month.
Investors in the $180 billion sector are wondering whether a paint job could be possible from February 11 when the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 becomes operative, allowing what it terms “minor changes” at rental properties.
Will painting be deemed a minor change? The answer seems to be that it’s up to the landlord and tenant to agree in writing in advance.
Peter Lewis, a landlord and Auckland Property Investors Association vice-president, is concerned and doubted painting would be defined as a minor change.
“Interior repainting will be one of the more contentious issues that will arise over the next few years,” he predicted.
The changes coming in under the law change were intended to be minor so the property was easily able to be returned to the original condition when the tenancy terminated. Painting inside is not in that category, he said.
“A complete repaint of the interior of a house could not in any way be classed as minor and easily reversible, particularly if the change was from a light to a dark colour that would then need several coats to reverse it. Even returning one wall to its original state could be challenging. To say the tenants must reinstate is just words. We all know that there is a big difference between that and in the real world,” Lewis said.
What could be desirable to one tenant may be highly objectionable to another, he said, citing a large colourful, highly complex dragon mural in one property he saw.
“It was most expertly done and a magnificent piece of artwork, but only a few tenants would find that an acceptable addition to the décor,” Lewis said.
Quality of the paint, skills and paint splatter damaging floors and surrounding surfaces was another worry, he said.
He wants to talk to tenants and ascertain plans before he would agree to painting.
Renters United backed the law change, saying a secure and stable home was essential for wellbeing.
“Renters should be able to make a rented property a home. It’s time to change the perception of renters as visitors in their communities who can never put down roots. Introducing security of tenure will reduce transience, strengthen community engagement, improve educational outcomes and give renters the protection they need to raise the quality of their homes and the housing stock in general,” the tenants’ lobby group said.
Fellow landlord John Paynter said he would need to approve colours and schemes before agreeing to a paint job and said only a competent tradesperson should do it.
Body corporate rules sometimes specified property appearance and such bodies might object to garish colours and designs, Paynter said.
“The building I am in at present specifies three colour schemes you can choose from. There are also lots of other body corporate rules that may prevent some owner or tenant desiring modifications,” he said.
A Ministry of Housing and Urban Development spokesman said whether a specific change like painting walls was within the scope of the revamped law would be situation dependent.
“A landlord and tenant should consider the elements of the definition and how they apply to the property and proposed change. Will it be easy to reverse? Is there a low risk of damage?” the spokesman asked.
“It is possible that painting walls may be considered out of scope as it may not be easy to return the walls to a reasonably similar condition at the end of the tenancy. If there is a dispute between a landlord and tenant, the Tenancy Tribunal can hear the dispute and will decide each case on the individual facts of the situation.It is also worth noting that tenants are not permitted to undertake minor changes without landlord consent,” the ministry man said.
Minor changes are defined as presenting a low damage risk to the place, can be returned to a reasonably similar condition at the end, do not pose a health or safety risk, have no impacts of third parties, require no consent under law and don’t breach bylaws or rules, covenants, etc.
Installing picture hooks, a dishwasher or washing machine in a space provided, baby gate, cupboard safety latches, shelving, TV aerials, curtains and window coverings, internal locks, fire and security alarms and doorbells or developing a garden were examples of changes which would be considered minor, the spokesman said.
Gary Lin, an Auckland landlord with 14 rental properties valued at $13m, said he generally had no issue with tenants being able to seek these changes and nor was he particularly worried about painting.
The list of what constituted minor changes was not unreasonable, he said.
“If the tenant is willing to pay for these upgrades, fantastic go for it. Picture hooks yes can be a problem if they overdo it and leave small holes on walls, but I’m not OCD on that and don’t care,” Lin said.
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