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Real Estate Investar Blog

Landlords unconcerned about looming changes

Landlords' fears about looming changes to the property investment market look to have subsided.

Before the election, the New Zealand Property Investors Federation (NZPIF) surveyed its members and said most would increase rent if Labour implemented its housing policies, including extending its bright-line test for capital gains tax, ring-fencing tax losses on investment properties, giving tenants more rights and introducing new "healthy homes" standards.

Almost three-quarters of respondents to the NZPIF survey said they would increase rental prices, with 54.8 per cent saying they'd raise rents between $20 and $40 per week.

But now a new Auckland Property Investors Association survey shows much less worry.

Five hundred Auckland landlords were asked about the extent to which they expected various proposals to affect the rental market.

They were in favour of a relaxation of loan-to-value restrictions, which require them to have large deposits to buy investment properties.

But they also supported better security of tenure for tenants through longer-term tenancies, and the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act.

They were most concerned about the prospect of a capital gains tax, debt-to-income restrictions on lending and the removal of their ability to issue a 42-day notice to terminate a tenancy.

President Andrew Bruce said he had been surprised at the tone of responses. "This is a lot less extreme reaction. I was expecting stronger concern, particularly about the ringfencing of losses," he said.

"What is interesting, and in fact, encouraging to note, is that on a one-to-10 favourability scale, none of the issues polled is so abhorrent to landlords as to cause them to dump their portfolios."

He said it showed long-term investors remained cautiously optimistic and steadfast in their approach.

"These results strengthen our belief that property is not an overnight rags-to-riches story. Most of our members have taken a long-term approach to their investments which includes built-in contingencies and mechanisms to absorb additional costs brought on by adverse policies. It is the price of doing business."

The Healthy Homes Guarantee Act, which many had criticised as adding extra burden and cost to landlords, was rated the third-most favourable policy. It will introduce minimum standards to ensure rental homes are warm and dry.

"Our members are acutely aware that the Act goes hand-in-hand with the security of tenure. As landlords, we understand that it is in everyone's interest to provide a healthy and safe home for our tenants," Bruce said.

He said it would not be clear until more details were known whether there would be unintended consequences that might push up costs.

One landlord, Ross Barnett, said it made sense. "Often spending a small amount doing up a property to a better standard results in more rent and gives a high return on the investment. Plus it often results in better tenants.

My issue is from a tenant perspective. Often a renovated property will rent for $50 extra per week. So what does a struggling tenant do, who is currently renting a rundown property for cheap rent?

If all the cheap rentals are upgraded, then they could be faced with a significant rental increase, where they might have preferred to put up with a few issues in return for the cheaper rent."

New landlords had been most concerned about the prospect of losses being ring-fenced, he said. That will mean landlords topping up the mortgages on their rental properties can no longer claim that against their other taxable income.

"It's definitely going to be harder for people to get in," Bruce said.

Landlords rank housing policies (in order of favourability)

· Relaxation of current LVR restriction

· Longer fixed-term tenancies

· Healthy Homes Guarantee Act

· Extension of Bright Line Test

· Limiting rent increases to once a year

· Removal of negative gearing

· Ring-fencing tax losses

· Removal of 42-day notice to terminate

· Debt-to-income restriction

· Capital gains tax

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