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Get smoke alarms, insulation sorted

Law changes that will require insulation and alarms in rental properties have passed their first hurdle.

Wednesday, December 9th 2015, 12:00AM

by Miriam Bell

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament unopposed yesterday – and consultation on the associated regulations are now underway.

First announced back in July, the Bill will amend the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 to require that smoke alarms and insulation is installed in residential rental properties.

Insulation will now be required in social housing from July 1 next year and in other rental properties from July 1, 2019 - although there are exemptions where it is not practical to install insulation.

However, from next July, all landlords will need to disclose how much insulation they have in their rental property in tenancy agreements.

Smoke alarms will need to be installed in all residential rental homes by next July.

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith said the Bill aims to make homes warmer, drier and safer for the million New Zealanders who live in rental accommodation, without imposing excessive costs on landlords.

The Bill also introduces other changes to residential tenancy law.

• It enables the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to investigate and take direct action against landlords for breaking tenancy laws where there is a risk to the health and safety of tenants.
• Protection for tenants who take up health and safety issues with the Tenancy Tribunal will be strengthened.
• The final change creates a fast-tracked, 10-day process enabling the re-tenanting of properties where a tenant has abandoned a property. This is intended to prevent affected landlords from losing weeks of rental income.

Consultation on the regulations on insulation and smoke alarms will take place in parallel with the Select Committee process and is scheduled to conclude on 11 February 2016.

The consultation will clarify the details regarding the quantity of insulation and number of smoke alarms required, as well as the circumstances a property can be excluded from the requirements.

The discussion document can be read here.

There has been some debate around the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill.

NZ Property Investors Federation executive officer Andrew King has previously said the NZPIF supports the requirements.

In his view, the focus on improving insulation levels in rental properties is likely to do more to improve the living conditions of tenants than a rental Warrant of Fitness (WOF) would.

However, other commentators have said the proposed requirements don’t go far enough and that a WOF for all rental properties should be introduced.

« Rental WOF needed to address inequality - academicTenancy Tribunal has bite »

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