Last week Housing Minister Nick Smith announced that the Government will strengthen tenancy laws to ensure that every rental property in New Zealand is insulated within four years.
The Residential Tenancies Act will now require that all rental properties have ceiling and underfloor insulation as well as smoke alarms by 2019.
According to Smith, “this package will see the biggest improvement in the quality of New Zealand’s older homes this decade than in any other decade.”
The strengthening comes alongside the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s new powers to investigate and prosecute landlords for breaching tenancy regulations.
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Insulating properties is expected to cost $600m nationwide, with landlords seeing an average cost of $3300 for retrofitting each home.
Labour and the Greens have acknowledged this step, but criticised the announcement for ushering in superficial changes that would not fix what Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei dubbed the “appalling state of rental stock in this country”.
Likewise, NZUSA President Rory McCourt praised the Government for having “finally acknowledged the serious problem of houses that make us sick”, but called for the additional inclusion of cost-effective heating options for rental homes.
VUWSA President Rick Zwaan has raised concerns about the proposed law changes. Zwaan pointed out that the changes only applied to properties with sufficient cavity space for ceiling and underfloor insulation, potentially ruling out a significant proportion of Wellington rental properties.
Zwaan is currently working with the Wellington City Council on a Rental Warrant of Fitness Programme, which he hopes will encompass additional factors such as heating and ventilation.
Concerns have also been raised regarding the effect that improved insulation will have on rent prices. With the average rent price in Wellington already sitting squarely above Studylink-provided living costs ($195 versus a maximum of $176.86), students may be warmer, but they may pay for it as well.
Vic Beats Smith to the Post
In similar news, Victoria University has recently worked with the Wellington City Council to assess the living standards and energy efficiency levels of 67 VUW residential properties.
Victoria has paid in full for a number of upgrades, including LED light bulbs, water-efficient shower heads, and insulation for water pipes and cylinders.
Wellington City Council Environmental Portfolio leader Iona Pannett remained positive about the improvements made to Vic, and saw the assessment and newly implemented measures as a “trial for how we might work with larger residential landlord groups in the long term”.