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Don't get left out in the cold with new tenancies laws

1 February 2016

New Zealand’s property rental sector is in line for an extra layer of warmth and safety, thanks to a series of new tenancy regulations intended to come into effect later this year.

Under the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (if passed), changes include the compulsory installation of insulation and smoke alarms.

According to latest Census statistics (2013), 453,135 households rent their home. On current inspection these reforms will require 180,000 homes to be insulated and the 120,000 homes currently without smoke alarms to have them installed.

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

By July this year, smoke alarms are to be compulsory in all rentals. Once in place tenants will be responsible for replacing batteries and notifying landlords of defects.

These standards will require 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 will be required, as per fire service recommendations.

Secondly, all rental properties must be insulated (both ceiling and underfloor) from July 2019, though exemptions apply to properties where it is physically impractical to retrofit insulation.

The Bill proposes the requirement for the installation of retrofits in houses that weren’t insulated to a minimum national standard when they were built, or where the original or retrofitted insulation is insufficient or damaged. Most houses built after 1978 should meet the required ceiling insulation standard provided the insulation has been installed correctly and is in good repair.

I recommend landlords seek specialist and legal advice to get fully up to speed with the obligations and potential penalties under the new legislation (when passed) so not to get left out in the cold.

- Nicole Wong