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Landlords threaten to install uneven stairs, put light switches in awkward places if bright-line test is extended

PICTURED: Grant Robertson lays out the Government’s latest half-hearted attempt to win over readers of The Spinoff.

PICTURED: Grant Robertson lays out the Government’s latest half-hearted attempt to win over readers of The Spinoff.

The nation’s landlords are panning the Government’s proposed housing changes, saying that extending the bright-line test from 5 to 10 years will do nothing to curb rising house prices, and will in fact force them to raise rent on their tenants, install uneven stairs in their flats, and put their light switches in awkward and hard to reach locations.

Andrew King, president of the New Zealand Property Investors Federation, said the Government’s proposed changes are fueled by the “politics of envy”, and will result in landlords having no choice but to make their tenants’ curtains really small, and install taps far too close to the sink to practically use.

“When the Government says it’s taking action against landlords, I think what people often don’t realise is that it’s not the landlords who ultimately suffer,” King told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking. “We do what we can for our tenants, but when the Government puts costs up on us, we have no choice but to put costs up on our tenants. When the Government makes new rules, we have no choice but to make new rules ourselves.”

Hosking agreed.

“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?” he said. “If something becomes more expensive for me, I’m going to have to make that cost up somewhere else. I’m going to have to make it more expensive for them. If I have to follow new rules, so are my tenants. This is inverse trickle-down economics, isn’t it?”

“It is,” said King. “These are simple market forces. If I’m forced to pay tax on the sale of my investment property, then my tenants might have to deal with a tiny wee oven, or stairs that are somewhat uneven, or maybe we’ll have to install light switches on the ceiling, or something really inconvenient like that.”

“Which raises the question, doesn’t it?” said Hosking. “Am I the one who’s going to have to suffer here, or is it my tenants Charlotte and Alistair, whose shower pressure I’m now going to have to lower?”

“A lot of landlords have been very generous with shower pressure, even in these past couple of years,” said King. “But I’m afraid if this is the ethos the Government is going to have, those days may well be over. I’ve spoken to several landlords who are going to have to remove the railings on their tenants’ stairs, plant weeds in their lawn, and send Jehovah’s to their doors at very inconvenient hours. Myself, I’m having to remove the dishwashers from my investment properties next week.”

“So am I,” concluded Hosking. “And the dog’s going to have to go, too. It’s not something I take pleasure in, I know you don’t Andrew, but this is just what happens when you go tinkering without leaving it, ultimately, up to the market.”

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he understood that many landlords would adjust their rents, chattels, and light switches and that there are a number of “complex market forces” at play when making those decisions, but he doubted that the bright-line test extension would be a major factor.

“Rents go up and down, chattels come in and out, light switches get put in different places for all sorts of reasons,” said Robertson. “If the light switch is on the ceiling, or the front door gets removed, there are all sorts of economic reasons that can happen. It could simply be the cost of putting the light switch in an easy to reach location, or door maintenance fees, or it could be something like the logical conclusion of the semi-feudal hellscape that we all live in. But it’s not necessarily because the bright-line has been extended.”

In addition to the bright-line extension, the Government hopes to build more housing by spending $3.8 billion on a single extremely expensive home, hoping it increases in value enough to provide the money actually required to solve the housing crisis.