NZPIF opposes Wellington rental WOF

Thursday 17 August 2017

Wellington City Council has announced it will be introducing a voluntary Warrant of Fitness (WOF) scheme for rental properties but landlord advocates don’t support the scheme.

By Miriam Bell

The Council is working in partnership with public health experts from the University of Otago to try and lift rental standards in the Capital.

Wellington mayor Justin Lester said it was the first such scheme in the country and aimed to make better accommodation available for people.

The scheme will involve an app that will allow tenants and landlords to check their house against minimum health standards designed by experts.

It will also allow landlords to request a full inspection by a professional, which will cost $250, to be certified as meeting the standard.

The Rental Warrant inspection has 29 criteria and 63 questions.

The assessment covers insulation, heating, ventilation, structural stability, sanitation, and hazard identification. If issued, the WoF will be valid for three years.

“This will give landlords the chance to promote their house as being warm and dry, and give prospective renters an assurance the home they are looking to live in meets the standard,” the mayor said.

The Council is aiming to make the scheme compulsory as part of a broader Wellington Housing Quality Standard, which will also incorporate earthquake resilience, in the years to come.

University of Otago public health professor Philippa Howden-Chapman said the rental WOF will focus on areas of dwellings that have the greatest chance of improving the occupants’ health.

“I urge landlords to get behind this and use it as a tool to raise the level of their property to a minimum standard.”

But landlord advocates are opposed to the introduction of rental WOFs.

NZ Property Investors’ Federation executive officer Andrew King said rental WOF schemes would just lead to more bureaucracy and greater costs which would be passed on to tenants.

“Rental advocacy groups say that the health of tenants is a key reason for needing a rental property WOF but, unfortunately, it isn't that easy.

“The sad case of a two-year-old girl dying partly because her house was cold demonstrates this.

“The Housing NZ home she lived in had insulation, a ventilation system and a heat pump, so would have passed Wellington's WOF.”

King said targeting help for those families who actually have a health related issue – with, for example, electricity vouchers in winter - would have significantly better results for those in need.

“Making it easier and cheaper for rental property owners to provide insulation and energy efficient heating would also be of more benefit to tenants.”

He said that another issue is that rental properties with features such as heat pumps tend to cost more and tenants are often unwilling to pay for the extra cost.

“The average cost of rental property in the Wellington Central suburbs is $451, but the average price of rentals that promote having a heat pump is $545.

“Naturally, there will be other factors apart from heat pumps producing this result, but it shows that rentals with better quality features will cost more.”

Those additional costs are often a deterrent for tenants.

Auckland Property Investors Association president Andrew Bruce recently told landlords.co.nz that he had offered to put heat pumps into all of his rental properties but told his tenants he would be putting the rent up by $10 if he did.

Without exception, his tenants all turned down the offer due to the extra rent they would be charged.

Read more:

Dark clouds on landlords’ horizons 

Minimum standards for insulation and heating a step closer 

Comments from our readers

On 20 August 2017 at 10:05 am hsharkey said:
I am shocked that Andrew Bruce does not have heat pumps in his rental properties. He appears to view efficient heating as a luxury item for his tenants. As president of the Auckland Property Investors Association he should be a role model for property investors. No wonder landlords get such a bad name.
On 25 August 2017 at 11:15 am Gib said:
I regard a heat pump as a luxury and we only purchased our's 2 years ago. We have used for many years convection/oil heaters Still use one in the hall/bedrooms area as the heat pump only heats the lounge/dining area.. Also if we lived south of Auckland (eg South Island) serious heating would be more of a consideration(also perhaps wood burners popular there;a friend's tenant gets free wood). I do not understand the ill thought out policy of compulsory installation of heat pumps in rental properties. My properties are one and two bedroom units in Auckland. Even Consumer Magazine recommended convection heaters for small flats. And surely this purchase should be at the tenant's discretion. Andrew King is spot on when he suggests heating vouchers for those vulnerable tenants. If polticians and tenant advocacy groups could just step back from their emotions and THINK broadly about all the issues and ramifications (and not superficially)then an intelligent solution could be found which is best for everyone. Ill thought out, heavy handed = rent increases, which neither I nor my tenants want.

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