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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 2. 7th March 1973

Trouble With Your Landlord?

page 5

Trouble With Your Landlord?

"Having trouble with your Landlord? ph. 44-814", says the ad in the 'to let' column of the Evening Post. About twenty times a week for some unfortunate tenants that sentence strikes an all too desperate chord.

Their landlord won't let them park their car in the driveway or objects to them having a member of the opposite sex in the house or sends some of his friends to crash in 'his' pad for a night or a few weeks. When a tenant rings T.P.A. about that it's a simple enough thing to fix, all it takes is a phone call. When the little landlord recognises there is power greater than his he will usually step down.

Serious Problems

Some problems are not quite so simple to solve. Some landlords are big enough and rich enough and powerful enough, so they think, to make more serious attacks on tenants. The big landlord is less interested in exercising petty authority on people than in exercising the real power of exploitation. Tenants who suffer from the exercise of this power come to Tenants Protection with really serious problems. At the lower end of the scale is the practice of not returning bonds when tenancy terminates Tenants Protection has recovered bonds by all means from pickets to threats of legal action to the heart felt plea to the better conscience of the Landlord.

Further up the scale is the wilful failure of a landlord to maintain the premises in a decent condition. The usual threat made against the tenant who complains is that he takes it as it is or gets out. Tenant's Protection gets fewer complaints about this sort of situation. All this means is that we are not powerful yet. Tenants are frightened that to bring TPA in will mean that they will have to get out. In fact the threat which is often made is not so often carried out.

TPA Doing Governments Job

Next comes the rent increase. In the past TPA could rarely do anything about this. Now the government has introduced the right to appeal rent increases. The regulations are not completely satisfactory. Many tenants do not realise, and cannot be persuaded that it is an offence for a landlord to evict them because they appeal a rent increase. TPA is now trying to do the job the Government is not doing by publicising the scheme.

The nastiest and most immediate attack that landlords make on tenants is the forced eviction. By law, unless the tenant agrees otherwise (and more on that later), a landlord cannot force a tenant out of his house without a Court order. Some landlords respect the law. Many others do not. If a landlord enters the tenant's house to throw him out and does so, he is committing the crimes of trespass, and probably assault and theft into the bargain. Yet the Police refuse to intervene to tell the landlord to go away. Lately they have taken a sort of benevolent "neutral" attitude, and just attempted to tell the landlord to be reasonable. In fact their duty is to arrest the criminal just as in any other case. On some occasions in the past, and probably still when TPA is not around, the Police have assisted landlords to throw tenants out of their houses.

Hidden Clauses

Some tenants "agree" that their landlords will have the right to throw them out of their houses or even take their possessions and sell them if the rent falls in arrears or they break the tenancy agreement somehow. What happens is that the landlord presents to the tenant a long lease for his signature; no flat. Hidden in the agreement is a clause overriding all the tenant's normal legal rights. If the tenant signs it, and he has no choice, he is considered by the law to have agreed to this clause as well as to all the others.

The great weakness of TPA is that it can only act if it knows that something is happening. Many tenants have not heard of it. Many may think that there is no way they can be helped. The same applies to laws which, like the Rent Control Regulations, rely on the tenant taking the initiative. The only solution is control exercised by a government body which keeps in touch with the situation through many inspectors and case workers, and can act without being called in. Rent control should apply to all houses whether or not the tenants have the initiative or in some cases the courage to ask for it. The Police should make it known that they are always available to uphold tenants' rights before the law. Until that happens Tenants Protection fills an important role.

Wellington Tenants Protection Association Incorporated Phone 44-814 P.O. Box 11160

We need members and money. If you can assist in either way please contact us at the above telephone number or address.