Safer Rentals

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Government already has schemes such as the Healthy Homes Initiative and Warm Up New Zealand to provide some low income renters with insulation.

However, for people who do not meet the requirements of the schemes, they’re often left in unhealthy rentals. This mainly effects low income earners and their families who can’t afford to better insulate themselves. Under the law change, landlords are responsible for ensuring their properties are insulated to a standard that meets the regulatory requirements. This is expected to lead to a further 180,000 properties being insulated by 2019, and will save over 120 lives a year.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that living in cold, damp houses can contribute to serious health issues and mainly effect the vulnerable such as young children, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system. Social houses (where tenants pay an income related rent) must be insulated by 1 July 2016 and all other rental homes by 1 July 2019. This gives landlords reasonable time to ensure their properties are up to standard.

Landlords will also have an obligation to ensure smoke alarms are installed in their rental properties. This obligation came into force on the 1st July. The alarms must be in each bedroom or within 3 metres of each bedroom. Around 3 lives are expected to be saved each year under this rule, not to mention fire-related injuries and tens of millions of dollars in property damage. Smoke alarms are absolutely essential in preventing house fires from becoming deadly, it is inexcusable for a rental property to not have a working alarm.  

To ensure these changes are complied with, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has established a Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team, allocated $14.4 million over the next four years to focus on properties that pose the greatest risk and where the most vulnerable tenants are affected. Most tenants have the wherewithal to take such cases directly to the Tenancy Tribunal, and the law change includes stronger protections from retaliatory notices. For vulnerable tenants living in sub-standard properties, MBIE will have increased resources and stronger powers to enforce breaches of the Residential Tenancies Act. 

These changes will save lives by ensuring all New Zealanders live in warm, healthy and safe homes. The savings to the health system through these changes will be huge with less people being injured in house fires and less preventable illnesses caused by unhealthy homes.