Changes for rental properties lettings in New Zealand announced

Changes in New Zealand mean that every rental property must reach specified insulation standards by July 2019 and have smoke alarms fitted.

Housing minister Nick Smith has announced new rental regulations which all landlords must meet. Only properties where it is physically impractical to fit insulation will be exempt.

The smoke alarms will become obligatory in July of next year but tenants will be responsible for replacing batteries and informing landlords of any defects that prevent the alarms from working.

Smith also outlined new powers to prosecute landlords for breaking tenancy regulations, particularly where there is risk to the health and safety of tenants and the rules will allow tenants to take concerns to the Tenancy Tribunal without fear of retaliatory evictions.

Under proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords will need to make sure their rental properties have ceiling and underfloor insulation that meets the new standard.The new requirements will apply from July 2016 for government subsidised social housing, and from July 2019 for all other rental properties, including boarding houses.

The regulations will make landlords responsible for installing operational smoke alarms, with tenants responsible for replacing batteries and notifying landlords when there is a defect. This will come into effect from 1 July 2016.

The proposed standards require a minimum of one working smoke alarm in a hall or similar area, within three meters of each bedroom door.

Help will be available through the Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes projects which provides free ceiling and underfloor insulation for low income households that are at high risk from illnesses linked to cold, damp housing. Funding for this programme is only guaranteed until June 2016.

'The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will have new powers to investigate and prosecute landlords for breaking tenancy laws as part of these reforms, particularly where there is risk to the health and safety of tenants,' said Smith.

'The new standards are part of the Government's plan to ensure all tenants can live in safer, warmer and healthier homes. Insulated homes are easier to heat, and smoke alarms are proven to reduce the risk of death from fires by up to 50%,' he added.

The regulations will also include a new 10 day process to enable landlords to 're-tenant' abandoned rental properties, where the tenant has no intention of returning. The current process can take up to six weeks, and often leaves landlords significantly out of pocket.