Hot water changes

Brett asks:
(updated on Wednesday, February 20th 2013)

Our rental house has always had hot water connected to a night rate. Cylinder is 225 litres for a three-bedroom house and has been fine for a couple before. New tenants have requested this be changed to day rate (involving a wiring change and thus an electricians' visit) as they keep running out of hot water. Are we obliged to do this or can we just give permission for them to arrange it at their own cost?

Our Experts Answer:

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 does not make any reference to the provision of hot water in rental properties. However, under the Act, landlords do have an obligation to ensure that the premises comply with all the relevant health, safety, and building regulations. The Housing Improvement Regulations 1947 specifies the minimum standard of fitness for houses and requires all premises to have a supply of potable water in the kitchen, and a supply of wholesome water with an adequate means of heating water in every bathroom. “Adequate” is defined in the regulations as adequate in the opinion of the local authority. Therefore, what constitutes an “adequate means of heating water” will depend on the local council in the area the property is located. The Building Code also sets out the standards that buildings (including residential premises) must meet. The current Building Code requires sanitary fixtures and sanitary appliances to be provided with hot water when those fixtures and appliances are intended to be used for utensil washing or personal washing, showering or bathing. However, buildings are only required to comply with the Building Code that was in force at the time the building was built. Where a landlord has met these obligations, and the tenant wishes to change the plan they are currently on, the landlord and tenant should discuss the terms of any such agreement (for example, whether the tenant will be responsible for the costs associated with the change and whether there is any requirement to reinstate it back to the original plan at the end of the tenancy) and record any agreement in writing. You may wish to contact the local council in the area the property is located for information about the regulations that may apply to a particular premise, and to determine what that particular council considers sufficient as an “adequate” means of heating water under the regulations and in relation to your tenancy. To discuss your situation further, or for information on landlord obligations under the Act, you can visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s website (www.mbie.govt.nz) or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

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