A new system designed to cut the time it takes to resolve tenancy disputes will only be available to big property management firms and Housing New Zealand at first.
By Susan Edmunds
Housing Minister Nick Smith has revealed details of the new "Fasttrack" process for the Tenancy Tribunal.
He said it would start on February 1 and would reduce the time it took to resolve the rent arrears disputes that made up 76% of the 43,000 applications received by the Tenancy Tribunal each year.
"Fasttrack will allow landlords and tenants who have made a sustainable agreement about repayment of debt to have their agreement formalised by a confirmation conversation rather than a full mediation.
"The time taken to resolve Fasttrack applications was cut from 12 days to just 48 hours on average during a successful pilot late last year with three of the highest volume Tribunal service users."
Housing New Zealand makes nearly 9000 rent arrears-related applications every year. Housing NZ said it would save thousands of hours in staff time and reduce caseloads.
Smith said it would eventually be available to all landlords and tenants.
"Fasttrack will be rolled out nationally in a staged process. Once fully implemented, there will be widespread benefits for tenants and landlords from a more efficient and effective tenancy dispute resolution process."
Tenants' rights groups were concerned that it might not give tenants enough time to dispute issues. But landlords and property managers involved in the pilot said it saved time on scheduling, paperwork and phone conversations.
The length of time it takes to get a matter heard by the Tenancy Tribunal has been a bugbear of landlords for some years.
NZ Property Investors Federation president Andrew King said it was a big issue. He said both landlords and tenants tended to report that the Tenancy Tribunal had favoured the other side.