A Hamilton-based landlord made headlines this week for encouraging other landlords to intimidate tenants into voting against Labour.
In a post made in the Facebook group Property Investors Chat Group NZ, the landlord called on property investors from across the country to threaten tenants with 10% rent increases if Labour chaired the next government. “Why should we all do this scaremongering tactic?” the landlord wrote, “If 35 percent of houses are rentals in New Zealand and we can get say half of the tenants NOT to give Labour their vote, we might as a collective help change the outcome of the next election and in doing so send the Labour Party a clear message”.
The post has been met with swift condemnation. Renters United spokesperson Kate Day says the post “shows what a farce it is that landlords raise the rent because their costs increase – what this clearly shows is landlords raise rents because they can. The market conditions and political conditions allow it… You’ve got a landlord encouraging others to raise rents 10 percent regardless of what happens to their costs, and also threatening the increase in order to influence their vote, which is obviously unethical”.
Unfortunately for flatting students, Day is correct: the political conditions do allow it. The Electoral Commission confirmed to Newshub that the landlord’s proposed plan was not illegal. Landlords are “allowed to use social media to express their political views,” a spokesperson said, adding the landlord’s post was “insufficient to reach the threshold required to be considered a breach of the Electoral Act”. In addition, there was no law preventing landowners from raising rent prices arbitrarily. “The Residential Tenancies Act does not specify how much landlords can increase rent by, or whether there needs to be a cost-related reason behind a rent increase,” said Jennifer Sykes, Housing and Tenancy Services manager of information and education.
Following the post, at least one tenant in Hamilton was served with a letter notifying them their rents would increase due to “the actions of the present Labour led coalition Government”. Speaking to Newshub on the condition of anonymity, the tenant said she didn’t mind rent increases to cover things like heat pump installations, but thought this price increase was an abuse of power. Renters United say this example “shows how broken our renting system is. Landlords feel they can increase rents when they like, for whatever reason they like. We need reasonable controls so renters pay fair rent, rather than suffer pressure from the improper motivations of some landlords.”.