Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act - It aint no WOF

August 14, 2015

In a previous post we looked at the call for a warrant of fitness for housing – mainly aimed at landlord compliance and raising the standard of living for those in rental accommodation. While the advantages and disadvantages of implementing such a process could be debated till the cows come home, it seems that it wasn’t something that the National government was willing to back in its entirety.

Subsequently in the last weeks, government has passed a watered down version of the WOF approach, legislating the need for insulation of all tenanted properties and the installation of smoke alarms.

So what does this mean if you are currently tenanting out property?

Insulation:

  • Both floor and ceiling insulation will be required by mid-2019.
  • All social housing which receives government subsidies is on an accelerated pathway and requires installation by July 2016.

Note that there are some exemptions to the new, specifically around the physical space available to be insulated. It is estimated that 100,000 of 280,000 rental properties are “so close to the ground or have insufficient space in the ceiling to reasonably expect them to be insulated. These will be exempt from the new rules,… as removing them from the housing stocks would cause a major housing shortage”.[1]

 

Smoke Alarms:
While it is a great investment in terms of both property and life, it is noted that many rental properties fail to have a fire alarm, or those that do tend to have alarms, have issues around the replacing of batteries in order for them to remain functional.

The New Zealand Fire Service states “Every year we attend more than 3,500 house fires. In 80% of the fatal fires we attend smoke alarms are either not installed or not working”.[2]

The new changes mean that for landlords there is a requirement to employ the use of long-life smoke alarms (approximately $40 each) in order to alleviate the requirements for periodic battery replacement (or no replacement as in many housing). These need to be in place from 2016.

While it is reasonable to assume that these additional costs will be passed on to the tenant, Nick Smith, Minister of Building and Construction, stated that this should account for on average an increase of approximately $3.20 per week.

At that price, we here at First Avenue acknowledge that it is both a worthwhile advantage to both the landlord and tenant – in regards to making the property more rentable and appealing to a larger market, and of course greater health benefit to the occupants.

Wanting to install an alarm? Checkout this handy ‘how to’ video from the New Zealand Fire Service.

Other changes
Through the implementation of the insulation and smoke alarm requirements, in order for the appropriate authorities to be able to monitor this and prosecute those landlords that are failing to adhere to the changes, legislation changes in this regards are also being made.

“Other changes will be made to tenancy laws which will allow the government to sue landlords who commit severe breaches of the law, while the laws around abandoned tenancies will be modified to allow landlords to re-tenant properties faster.”[3]


Where to from now?
Compliance. If you’re going to leave insulation to the last minute, it’s important to note that 2019 isn’t that far away! If the funds aren’t quite there to carry out the insulation in the short or medium term, now is the time to start putting a little away each week to ensure that you’ll have the money to meet compliance.

Remember that it is also likely that you won’t be the only landlord that will require the services of an insulator as the deadline nears, and you don’t want to be caught on the waiting list! It’s likely that if you haven’t taken steps to be insulated prior to the deadline, prosecution is on the cards.

Act today – if you have the funds, get this sorted immediately. This investment may seem a little bureaucratic but it is also an advantage over non-insulated properties in the market, and maybe the deciding factor between a good tenant and a great tenant!

The same goes for the installation of the long-life smoke alarms/detectors. Gain some peace of mind that you’ve taken all possible steps to protect your investment, but more importantly that there isn’t a death on your watch.

One other thing to consider is to get to know your tenant. Recently we have discovered that some tenants can actually help you get your property insulated and in some instances install heating. What? I hear you say. Community Energy Action (CEA) is a Canterbury-based Charitable Trust that advocates warm, dry and healthy homes. Through them you can access a no obligation insulation check to determine the standard of your currently insulation; and if your tenant’s are Community Services Card holders they may qualify for free insulation or some funding towards insulations (and there are some other discounts for non-community Card holders). To learn more about this, check out at CEA or give them a call on 0800 GET WARM.

Do you think that the changes are fair and required? Leave your thoughts in a comment below, would love to hear from you.

 

Photo Credits 
The R11 attic insulation, by Ryan McFarland, CC BY 2.0


Citations
[1] http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/70096597/Landlords-required-to-insulate-and-install-smoke-alarms-to-rental-properties
[2] http://www.fire.org.nz/fire-safety/Safety-Devices/Pages/Smoke-alarms-installation.html
[3] http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/70096597/Landlords-required-to-insulate-and-install-smoke-alarms-to-rental-properties

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