Rental insulation requirements are now law

Thursday 2 June 2016

Insulation and smoke alarms will now be required in all rental properties after the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill passed into law this week.

By Miriam Bell

The RTA Bill has been mired in controversy due to ongoing claims that it does not do enough to make rental properties warmer, drier and healthier.

Despite this, the RTA Bill passed its final reading unanimously.

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith said the new requirements will save 1000 lives over the next decade.

“It will make homes warmer, drier and safer for tens of thousands of tenants without imposing unreasonable costs.”

Under the new requirements, insulation must be installed in social housing from July 1 this year and in all other rental properties by July 1, 2019.

From July 1 this year, landlords must include a declaration of the level of insulation underfloor, in walls and in the ceiling in all tenancy agreements.

All insulation installed from July 1 this year must be to the latest 2008 standards.

Smoke alarms must now be installed in all rental homes by July 1 this year – and all new smoke alarms must be the 10-year, long-life models.

In a connected move, Finance Minister Bill English allotted $36 million to “ensure more New Zealand families live in warmer, drier and healthier homes” in last week’s Budget.

This funding is intended to complement the new insulation requirements via the Warm Up New Zealand programme and the Healthy Homes Initiative.

The RTA Bill may now be law, but heated debate over rental properties standards looks set to continue.

Labour leader Andrew Little’s Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2) has passed its first reading and moved to Select Committee stage.

At the same time, the Green Party’s Residential Tenancies (Warm, Safe and Secure Rentals) Amendment Bill remains in the parliamentary ballot.

Both Bills propose the setting of minimum standards around insulation, heating, ventilation and drainage for all rental properties.

However, Smith rejected criticism that the new insulation and smoke alarm requirements do not go far or fast enough.

"The proposal to require hundreds of thousands of homes already insulated, but to an older standard, to be brought up to the current standard would add more cost on to rents than the benefit of a few percent extra in heat retention,” he said.

“The timetable in this new law is four years faster than Labour’s bill. Their proposal to add heating as a requirement overlooks the fact heating is already covered in housing regulations.

“These detailed and practical new laws will make our rental homes warmer, drier and safer.”

In the next few months, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will be running an information campaign for landlords and tenants to help ensure the successful implementation of the new requirements.

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