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What you need to know: new insulation and smoke alarm regulations for rental properties

1 July 2016

From July 1 all landlords must declare the level of insulation in their properties.

Under the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill, they will then have three years to ensure their properties meet minimum insulation standards.

Housing New Zealand properties however must meet the new standards by July 1 this year.

At the same time all landlords are responsible for ensuring smoke alarms are installed.

The Government believes these law changes will make homes warmer, drier and safer without imposing excessive bureaucracy or cost.

At Harris Tate we have compiled a concise list of all you need to know:

Insulation regulations

Landlords

  • By July 1 this year, all landlords must declare the level of insulation in their rental properties
  • All tenancies, including boarding houses, must have ceiling and under-floor insulation with a minimum thickness of 70mm by July 1, 2019
  • Housing New Zealand rental properties must have the new standard of insulation by July 1 2016
  • The new standards apply to habitable spaces - garages and storage spaces are excluded. Under-floor insulation applies to suspended wooden floors. If a property sits on a concrete slab, that counts as insulation
  • There are three exemptions to the new insulation rules: if a property's physical design makes it impractical to retrofit; if a property is sold and immediately rented back to the former owner-occupier, like properties NZTA has bought for roading projects; and properties which are due to be demolished or substantially rebuilt

Tenants

  • If tenants have a problem with insufficient insulation they can take a case to the Tenancy Tribunal. The Tribunal can order damages of up to $3000
  • If there is a severe breach of the Residential Tenancy Act alleged, or significant risk to tenants, the Government can investigate and take direct action against landlords

Smoke alarm regulations

Landlords

  • Landlords are responsible for installing smoke alarms and checking they are operational at the start of tenancies
  • There must be a minimum of one working smoke alarm in the hall or similar, within three metres of each bedroom door
  • In a self-contained sleep-out, caravan or similar, a minimum of one working smoke alarm is required
  • When installing or replacing alarms, the new one must be a photoelectric alarm
  • Long-life photoelectric alarms cost approximately $40 and last for up to 10 years
  • The new standards apply to all residential tenancies, including boarding houses, and caravans or cabins that are tenanted for longer than 28 days

Tenants

  • Tenants are responsible for replacing batteries and notifying landlords if there are defects
  • If tenants have a problem with smoke alarms which a landlord isn’t addressing, they can take a case to the Tenancy Tribunal. The Tribunal can order damages of up to $3000
  • If there is a severe breach of the Residential Tenancy Act alleged, or significant risk to tenants, the Government can investigate and take direct action against landlords