Opposition: New rental rules don't go far enough

  • 10/07/2015
Phil Twyford (Simon Wong/3 News)
Phil Twyford (Simon Wong/3 News)

Law changes that will force landlords to insulate their houses and install smoke alarms don't go far enough, opposition parties say.

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith announced the new rules yesterday, saying they would ensure 180,000 homes were warmer, drier and safer.

From July 1 next year all social housing subsidised by the government will be retrofitted with ceiling and underfloor insulation, and have smoke alarms fitted.

From July 1 2019 all other rental properties will come under the same rules.

Labour says the new rules are a step in the right direction but don't go nearly far enough, with housing spokesman Phil Twyford labelling it a "grudging half-measure".

"Insulating a cold house without requiring modern efficient heating will still leave tenants at risk of respiratory diseases," he said.

"Only requiring insulation and smoke alarms falls far short of what is needed."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says insulation and working smoke alarms aren't in themselves going to fix the "appalling state" of rental properties in New Zealand, or prevent people from getting sick.

"To do that, the government would need to introduce a wide-ranging housing warrant of fitness with enforceable minimum standards across the board," she said.

The Greens are also pushing for the Government to resurrect the Warm Up New Zealand scheme, which the government scaled back in 2013.

That scheme provided grants for insulation retrofits and the installation of efficient heating systems.

Mangere Budgeting Services chief executive Darryl Evans says it is a great start, but believes more needs to be done.

"Advocates around the country truly want a building WOF to ensure that the properties are safe, they are well maintained and they are easy to heat," he told TV3's Paul Henry programme.

"Our families are living, for the most part, in cold damp houses. Now, that’s not to say there are some really good landlords who already have insulated houses.

He says since moving to the Waikato he has begun to worry about pensioners who struggle on cold and frosty mornings.

"They simply don't have enough money once they’ve paid the rent to turn on the power and even if you do turn on the power, if it's un-insulated it takes twice as long to heat the home."

Dr Smith will bring a bill to parliament in October to make the changes.

It will set fines for failing to meet the new standards.

From July next year, landlords will also have to state in tenancy agreements the level of existing insulation in their houses.

There are about 280,000 rental properties in New Zealand and Dr Smith says about 100,000 can't be retrofitted because they're too old or their construction makes it impractical.

It costs about $3300 to insulate a house and smoke alarms cost about $40.