The impact on children needs to be a central focus for changes to rental law. This was one of the key points made by NZ Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) on 6th December in comments to the Parliament Select Committee considering changes to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). NZCCSS was represented by Executive Officer Trevor McGlinchey and Policy Advisor Paul Barber.
Trevor McGlinchey told the Select Committee that NZCCSS is calling for a formal Children’s Impact Assessment for any changes to rental law such as those proposed in this Bill. This will help to better understand how this Bill may impact on tenants and their potentially vulnerable children and consider the best balance between their needs and the rights of the landlord.
The current Bill continues the piecemeal approach to rental laws of past year with small patch-up amendments to the original RTA. What is needed is a full review of the Act that is now more than 30 years old, to make it relevant to the realities of renting in the 21st Century.
Wider consultation is needed, Paul Barber told the Committee, especially focused on involving those most affected, people on low incomes renting in the private rental market or social housing. The voices of tenants and their communities have not been well represented in the development of rental law and it is time to take a better approach.
The Bill before Parliament includes provisions to enable standards to be set for methamphetamine (P) contamination in rental housing as well as tenant liability for careless damage.
More consultation is needed in both these areas. There is strong evidence that the levels of meth proposed as standards for contamination are too low and risk creating further evictions and costs for tenants and landlords where the health risks are very low.
The changes to tenant liability appear to disadvantage tenants and more and better consultation is needed before law changes in this area as well.