Landlords proactive on insulation, smoke alarms

Minimum rental standards on insulation and smoke alarms are already being met by many landlords, according to one investor advocate.

Tuesday, June 9th 2015, 12:00AM

by Miriam Bell

Ninety percent of the 4,817 rental properties covered in a recent NZ Property Investor Federation members’ survey already had some form of insulation.

Of those members who had improved the level of insulation in their properties over the last year, 57% had funded this themselves.

NZPIF executive officer Andrew King said that this is an ongoing process for landlords belonging to property investors’ associations affiliated with the NZPIF.

Further, members can purchase smoke alarms through a special scheme for installation in their rental properties, he continued.

“This has been coupled with a vigorous awareness campaign of the need for smoke alarms which started earlier this year and is ongoing”.

Discussion about the introduction of a “Warrant of Fitness” for rental properties has hit the headlines again after a coroner’s report last week partly attributed the death of 2-year-old Emma-Lita Bourne to a cold, damp state house.

The Labour party resubmitted its Healthy Homes Bill – which would require a full set of minimum standards for all rental properties – and, in response, the government said it is considering a limited form of a rental WOF.

Government sources have said this would be likely to mean minimum standards for insulation and smoke alarms.

King said the NZPIF tentatively supported the government’s suggestion that insulation, where practical, should be included in the minimum standards for rental houses.

However, there is no free lunch and the cost of the insulation would eventually be borne by tenants, which would make it even harder for many to pay for heating costs, he said.

For this reason the NZPIF believes that insulation should be tax deductible to keep costs down and to reduce the increase in rental prices.

King said that even insulated homes need heating and ventilation otherwise they are likely to remain cold and damp.

The NZPIF believes government should focus on insulation and heating rather than responding to calls for a WOF, which checks items like the size of kitchen benches and whether the property has a toilet and hot and cold water, he said.

“Government saves $5 in health spending for every $1 spent on insulation and heating, so this is an excellent return for tax payers’ money.

“Making insulation and energy efficient heating tax deductible would lead to warmer rentals without leading to significantly higher rental prices.”

King added that the NZPIF is disappointed that the government isn't currently in favour of providing electricity vouchers for low income families.

“While this isn't something that would affect rental property owners, we do see some families who need extra help. Perhaps if it was carefully targeted to families of children with a recognised illness then the government would look at it more favourably.”

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