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August 21, 2017 | by  | in VUWSA |
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Presidential Address

Last week, you might have seen that the Mayor Justin Lester announced the launch of a Rental Warrant of Fitness (WOF) for Wellington.

The WOF is the second of the two big things, alongside student fares on public transport, that will make Wellington a more student friendly city.

However, the scheme just announced has a key distinction from the one that we have been campaigning for — it is voluntary rather than mandatory for landlords to adopt. In this way it’s a bit like the Rate My Flat scheme that has been running in Dunedin for a while. It relies on market pressure to incentivise landlords to improve the condition of their houses so that students and other renters will want to live there, rather than in someone else’s rental.

However, the obvious problem with that approach in Wellington is that renters don’t have any choice. When there are 100 people lining up to view a flat, it is the landlord or property agent choosing between the prospective tenants, not the other way around.

When was the last time you walked up to a flat viewing and asked the landlord for a reference from their previous tenant, questioned them about their criminal history, and finished by putting them in a bidding war against another landlord — winner gets you as a tenant? Nope?

But the voluntary WOF is actually a step in the right direction, and I applaud the work WCC is doing with the housing taskforce. They are showing that they mean business on housing reform.

What’s important is that this doesn’t become the end of the road. The voluntary WOF needs to be used to familiarise landlords and students with the concept, get people using it, and then followed pretty swiftly with some hard rules.

The Councillors signed up to a mandatory rental WOF last year to be implemented within this term, and we’ll be holding them to it!

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