Landlords cool on bedroom heater proposal

Landlords want balance on a proposal to make them provide bedroom heaters to tenants.

The Government has opened consultation for new standards on rental homes, including a suggestion to make landlords provide an "appropriate heating device" inside rooms rented as bedrooms. Current standards only require them to provide heating inside the main living room.

While the option has been welcomed by tenants' groups, Andrew King, executive officer of the New Zealand Property Investors' Federation, warns it could have negative effects.

"There are many reasons for a damp mouldy home and tenants should also be responsible for using heating, ventilating the property and adequately cleaning," he says.

"Landlords providing portable heaters in bedrooms is not cost effective, removes choice for tenants and there is a real possibility for them to go missing."

The Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill passed its third reading in November 2017. It allowed standards to be set on rental homes, but did not set out what those standards would be.

Five new standards have now been suggested - heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture ingress and drainage and draught stopping.

A new discussion document has set out how the Government would include those goals including minimum indoor temperatures, when insulation should be replaced and what kind of ventilation would be required.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford says the new measures would allow families living in rental homes to be happier and healthier.

"Many rental homes are cold, damp, and mouldy which can contribute to a range of health issues including respiratory conditions, toxic reactions and allergies," he said.

"Such illnesses can affect people's employment and economic opportunities because they have to take more sick days, and affect children's educational outcomes because they are off school more."

Mr King agrees that it's good to have a warm dry home for tenants, as well as protect the property from damp and mould.

However he argues the cost benefit of bedroom heaters is negative.

"There are a wide range of cheap portable heater options so we believe it is better for tenants to choose and provide their own bedroom heaters," he says.

"Portable heaters are easily removed and so the cost could escalate if landlords had to provide them."

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) discussion document says requiring landlords to provide heating inside bedrooms would especially benefit children, the elderly and people with disabilities or illnesses.

However it also acknowledges problems, including extra costs to landlords and that tenants might not be able to afford the running cost of the heaters.

Mr King believes there is a better way of providing warm and healthy homes.

"Keep the latest insulation standards in place and require adequate heating in the living areas, but not restricted to just heat pumps, fuel efficient wood burners and flued gas heaters," he says.

"The tenant is the best person to detect and enforce the standards as it is their home and they receive exemplary damages themselves if a landlord doesn't comply."