Tenants winning thousands from landlords failing to insulate homes

Rents are rising to record highs - partly due to property owners passing on the cost of new insulation and healthy homes standards.

Not all landlords are complying with the laws and now tenants are winning thousands in damages.

After three years of living in a cold, wet home, Jena Bennett was done.

"I had nowhere else to go to ask for help," she told Newshub.

The Palmerston North mother-of-three took her landlord to the Tenancy Tribunal for failing to insulate her home.

With winters of sick kids and no more Work and Income advances left, Bennett says she had no other choice.

"You really don't want to be doing dishes, washing curtains, wiping down windows constantly. You want to be outside having fun with your kids," she says.

She was awarded $1500, $1000 of which for the breach of the Government's new insulation standards.

The landlord says a tradesperson was contacted prior to the law coming into effect, but the Tribunal says the property owner had three years notice.

Bennett isn't alone.

Over the past six months, almost 400 people have taken their landlords to the Tenancy Tribunal over alleged breaches.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE) compliance team have received a further 231 complaints relating to non-compliance.

"What is important now is that tenants really understand there is a course of action if their landlords aren't doing the right thing," Real Estate Institute chief executive Bindi Norwell says.

This comes as new figures show New Zealand's inflation rate has risen off the back of higher rent prices. In the December quarter, rents had their highest annual increase in eleven years. This is partly due to the costs associated with these new standards.

"We've already had these rental increases over a long period of time, so at least renters are now getting something for the additional money they're paying," Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen says.

With another round of healthy homes standards coming into force this year, landlords are urged to educate themselves and get the work done early.

"My message to landlords would be [to] keep in contact with your tenant; maintain the home so it's healthy for them to live in - especially if they have children, because it's hard to maintain," Bennett says.

"Be a good landlord; be a human being."

For now, Bennett is happy to be in a warm, dry home.