Thursday, July 09, 2015

Winning the argument on rental standards

It looks like the opposition has won the argument on standards for rental homes and has forced the government to require insulation:

“The new law will require retrofitting of ceiling and underfloor insulation in rental homes over the next four years. The requirement applies from 1 July 2016 for social housing that is heavily subsidised by Government, and from 1 July 2019 for other rental housing, including boarding houses. There will be exemptions, such as where it is physically impractical to retrofit insulation due to limited space underfloor or inaccessible raked ceilings.

“There will also be a new requirement from 1 July 2016 for all landlords to state in tenancy agreements the level of ceiling, underfloor and wall insulation to help better inform tenants. These new insulation requirements in our tenancy laws are the logical next step following our programme to retrofit insulation in 53,000 state houses and the 280,000 grants from the Warm Up New Zealand scheme.


“The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will have new powers to investigate and prosecute landlords for breaking tenancy laws as part of these reforms, particularly where there is risk to the health and safety of tenants. The changes will also ensure tenants can take concerns to the Tenancy Tribunal without fear of being evicted for doing so.

Its not a warrant of fitness scheme, but it probably does the job, at least if landlords obey. A lot will depend on whether increased risk of illness is considered a risk to health and safety, and on whether the penalties are enough to force compliance. It will also be interesting to see who is legally responsible for state houses: the chief executive, or the Minister.

Meanwhile, its another great example of how the opposition can force policy change by leading on an issue. Maybe Labour could learn a lesson from that on other issues?