Early in July, Housing Minister, Nick Smith announced significant changes to the Residential Tenancies Act that will see a greater emphasis on compliance.
The changes are predominantly around insulation of rental accommodation and smoke alarms becoming compulsory. There are other changes as well around laws regarding abandonment of tenancies and further protection for tenants against landlords who issues notices in retaliation.
However, the main focus is clearly on the gradual improvement of rental accommodation. The government has moved away from the controversial Building Warrant of Fitness with suggestion that it goes too far and will be an ongoing cost to landlords that will ultimately be another burden for tenants to pay.
As of 1 July 2016 all landlords will have to stipulate the level of insulation in walls, ceiling and under floor in new Tenancy Agreements. This will be a significant undertaking for many landlords and Property Management companies. Failure to state the level of insulation will become a breach of the Residential Tenancies Act and landlords may face fines for failure to do this.
By 1 July 2019 nearly all-residential rent accommodation will have to have adequate levels of insulation in the ceiling and under floor. All the Housing New Zealand stock will be retro fitted with insulation by 1 July 2016. There are estimated to be approximately 180,000 rental properties throughout New Zealand and with many Kiwi’s being priced out of the market in Auckland, a lifetime of renting looks a real possibility.
The other change is around smoke alarms. The new smoke alarm standards will require a minimum of one working smoke alarm in the hall or similar, within three metres of each bedroom door.
The landlord must ensure the alarm is operational at the beginning of a tenancy and the tenant will be responsible for replacing batteries during the tenancy.