Rental Warrant of Fitness

Regardless of the make-up of the newly-elected Government later this year, landlords can expect some sort of minimum standard to be applied to rental properties. 

Pressure is building from many groups. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has prioritised improved air quality, both inside and outside of the home. The WHO stresses that creating healthy homes through better insulation, ventilation, and heating solutions leads to a healthier population. While New Zealand boasts some of the best-quality outside air in the world, we fail on our interior air quality. A 2010 BRANZ survey found a mere 22% of rental properties were in good condition, while a whopping 44% were in poor condition.

A new study commissioned by a steering group on the subject (the group is made up of five city councils, the University of Otago, NZ Green Building Council, and ACC) applied a Warrant of Fitness test, comprising of 31 criteria, to 140 rental properties throughout Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin.

Alarmingly, 94% failed on at least one of the criteria on the checklist. However, 36% of those that failed showed only minor fixes were required, which were estimated to cost between $50 and $150 to rectify. The top 5 reasons for failure included;

  1. Water temperature
  2. Lack of smoke alarms in bedrooms
  3. Lack of code compliant hand rails and balustrades
  4. Lack of fixed-form heating
  5. Security

In a separate project, Housing New Zealand is trailing a Warrant of Fitness containing a 49-point checklist on 500 of its homes.
The Government agency will assess at the end of the trial whether the WOF was practical and cost-effective. Results are expected in July.

Finally, Labour’s Phil Twyford has introduced a member’s bill into Parliament to make every rental property in New Zealand meet minimum standards. The Residential Tenancies Act already mandates safe, sanitary, and clean properties. However, the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill aims to amend the RTA to require that all landlords meet new standards.

Although this bill is widely expected to fail, it is almost a given that whichever Government is voted in later this year, there will follow some legislation that creates ‘a checklist’ for rental properties.

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