MIKE ROKE: Renting in New Zealand is the pits

The relationship between landlord and tenant used to be a fair one. In return for helping a landlord pay the mortgage on their investment property, a tenant got a roof over their head for less than a mortgage would cost them per week. It meant you were not building equity, but you have a bit more discretionary income and you were not having to pay rates or insurances.

A good tenant was worth its weight in gold to the landlord too. Some landlords would even hold back rent increases, or charge slightly less than market rates, to keep a good tenant in their property. Someone that looks after your property as well as you would, is so valuable.

I never really had the ambition of owning a home. I was quite happy renting - but boy has that changed in the last two years. The landscape has shifted so far in favour of the landlord now it's not funny. I'm certainly not laughing.

My wife and I now pay more in rent than most of our friends do in mortgage (there goes that discretionary income). And what do i get for my money other than the roof over my head? Not much really. I certainly don't get good service from my property management company. I would expect that with the amount we pay, I would get "yes sir" - "right away sir" when I ring to get something fixed, but that is not the case at all.

This week the toilet in our en suite was not flushing. Now, I am going to put my hand up here and admit I am no DIY'er. I'm sure my ancestors would be ashamed of how little I know about home maintenance so I was never going to try to solve the issue myself - actually, I'm not even sure if I would be allowed to try and fix it.

I email the property manager, who says he has to get the landlord's approval and he will get back to me (yes the landlord needs to say it's OK to get the toilet fixed before we are allowed to have it repaired). Two days pass and no word, so I ring him. He apologises and said he will get onto it and get a plumber organised to contact me. Next day - nothing.

I send him a very grumpy text the next day and low and behold a plumber does call me, and later that day the toilet is fixed.
That is 4 days after I first approached them. Is that good enough? I don't think so. I will admit there is another toilet in the house so the situation wasn't dire, but that is not the point.

We are paying high rent prices, yet getting very low quality service in return? 

What am i going to do about it? Absolutely nothing. Why? Because I like where I live. I like the house, I like the neighbourhood and I don't want to move.

We signed a 12-month fixed term lease last October and we want it renewed, so we won't rock the boat. Because we know if our landlord sees us as whingy, complainy tenants 21 days before our lease is due to be renewed, they can potentially say "thanks for the tenancy but goodbye" - and there is nothing we can do about it.

I have to pack up my young family and move. This is where the landscape is skewed too far in favour of the landlord.

The market is so competitive now that any landlord has no trouble at all finding people to tenant their properties. We even hear stories of potential tenants getting in a bidding war to secure the rental. It is absolute madness.

Landlords can charge like wounded bulls for their properties and they are almost guaranteed to find someone that will pay it without too much trouble. This means as the tenant there is no guarantees, only uncertainty. We really have no idea how long we will live at our current address. We would love to stay there for years to come, but it is not up to us.

Having the uncertainty of not knowing how long you will live at an address is the worse thing about being a renter.

We are great tenants. We look after the house and property, we pay our rent on time, we are quiet and have no pets - but that uncertainty of not knowing what will happen to us come October still hangs in the back of my mind.

More should be done to even the playing field. A long-term lease should be 12 years, not 12 months. It would be nice to be a renter but still have a house you can raise your family in. Keep your kids in the same school, with the same friends. And in the time that you're living there, if you want to be able to make improvements to the house that adds value it would be nice to be able to.

I should be able to hang pictures on the wall of my kids without anyone questioning whether I've used an existing hole or not. If we want to get a dog we should be allowed to. If we want to paint our daughter's bedroom wall a nice bright colour, we should be just be able to do it. But no - can't do any of that. Instead, we get the indignity of having someone inspect of house every 3 months to make sure we're not destroying it, comparing any mark on the wall to photos taken before we moved in to make sure we didn’t do the damage.

There's not much more insulting than having an almost stranger tell you that the shower door has a bit of mould you need to get rid of.

Being a renter in modern New Zealand means that you have a house you live in, but it isn't really your home.