Article: Speak Easy

Do Landlords And Tenants Really Hate Each Other?Do Landlords And Tenants Really Hate Each Other?

Landlord versus tenant conflicts are played up in the news media all the time. Case in point: the brand new HRV State of the Home survey is called ‘The Renter vs Landlord War Wages On.’ This survey fans the flames aplenty. Also, it seems to have a bizarre spelling mistake in its headline (possibly they meant the war ‘rages’ on.)

The survey is loaded with sensational stats suggesting most renters are in draughty, mouldy homes. Example: Landlords were found to place “little importance on heating and ventilation or addressing mould and dampness.” The survey reminds readers that a Landlord Leasing Solution is on offer from HRV, making it clear the purpose of the survey is to convince landlords to feel guilty and convince them to install HRVs.

I’m not ‘raging war’ or even ‘waging rar’ against ventilation options for homes. It’s true that a combination of heating, insulation and ventilation creates the healthiest air conditions inside a home. But if you are looking for less inflammatory survey results, with better grammar, try the NZ Rental Sector Survey, conducted in 2016 BRANZ, Massey University’s SHORE and Whariki Research Centre, the University of Otago, and the Building Research Levy. It’s pretty objective and honest, however far more tenants (1100) than landlords (400) were surveyed, and all the landlords were surveyed in the four main centres only. Did the survey capture a fair and honest depiction of who the average landlord is? Pretty much.

The survey found the following about the types of people out there in control of rentals:
• Median age of landlords sampled: 56

• The landlords sampled owned an average of 2.25 houses each

• Income received by landlords closely correlates with house prices in each centre. Mean weekly rent received by landlords in Auckland was $542, $563 for Christchurch, Wellington it was $369, and a humble $301 mean weekly rent in Dunedin.

• Landlord households had high incomes (median $125,000) compared to all households in New Zealand (median $76,000)

• Most landlords were NZ-born, and 81% identified as NZ European (a proportion which is higher than the NZ European population of 74% of total population. Of the sample of 400 landlords surveyed, just 4% identified as Maori, 4% Indian and 3% Chinese.)

• Respondents said their original reasons for investing in a rental property were most often to accrue retirement savings (30% of respondents), for capital gain (25%) and for rental income (22%). Very few respondents mentioned negative gearing (maximising tax deduction), ability to leverage/borrow off the property.

• Four main ‘types’ of landlords appear to be 1) Investors who saw rental property as primarily retirement income; 2) Those who considered it as part of a general investment/wealth creation strategy; 3) Those for whom acquiring and managing residential rental properties was a business and/or lifestyle choice; 4) and those who had become ‘accidental landlords’ (who acquired their property through a variety of circumstances and eventually decided to rent it out)

• Buying property was described by landlords as a safe investment “you can touch” which “Nobody can just whoosh away out of your bank account”

• Two thirds of those surveyed preferred to buy and rent out second hand dwellings (presumably because not as much profit can be made from buying and renting out a new home)

• Landlords were also asked how much they would typically spend on maintenance for each property in a year. The median was $2000 and the mean between $3000 and $4000, with no significant difference evident between locations.

• Two thirds of landlords managed their properties themselves; just 25% employed a property management company.

All in all, to me it sounds like the average landlord is a person with that little bit of extra savvy to bring in extra income through renting out 1-2 extra properties – not some villain waging war on renters.

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.

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