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Warmer, safer houses a step closer with Government Bill

A Government Bill to make homes warmer, drier and safer for New Zealanders who live in rental properties has passed its second reading in Parliament by 107 to 14.

“This Bill requires all rental properties to have smoke alarms by 1 July 2016 and insulation by 1 July 2019 as well as new powers for enforcing existing housing standards will make tens of thousands of homes warmer, dryer, safer,” Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith says.        

This Bill is expected to affect 120,000 rental properties without smoke alarms and 180,000 without insulation, as well as improving the enforcement of existing regulations that cover issues of heating, dampness, electrical safety, plumbing sanitation and ventilation.

“This Government has a proud record of practical activism in making homes healthier and safer. Our first step was insulating 30,000 State houses, and then providing Warm Up New Zealand grants for a further 290,000 homes. This Bill will require a further 180,000 rental homes to be insulated by 1 July 2019 – a total of 510,000. This compares to just 50,000 homes insulated by the previous Labour government.

“The most contentious part of this debate is over the standard of insulation on which there has been much ill-informed comment. The regulations supporting this Bill require all insulation installed to be the 2008 standard when none exists or where the insulation is no longer in reasonable condition. The argument that the Bill should be extended to require over 200,000 homes that are insulated but to the slightly lower 1978 or 2001 standard does not stack-up. These homes have insulation that reduces heat loss by 84 per cent (1978 standard) or 87 per cent (2001 standard) and the small gains to the latest 2008 standard of 92 per cent are not justified by the cost. The priority should be concentrating on uninsulated properties.

“The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill also covers the important issue of making smoke alarms mandatory in rental properties from 1 July 2016 – a move which will save an average of three lives per year, and reduce the number of fire-related injuries.”

Landlords will have to install smoke alarms and tenants will be responsible for changing the batteries and reporting faults to the landlord. Any new smoke alarms have to be photoelectric alarms, which have a 10-year lifespan.

The Bill also tackles sub-standard rental properties, such as those with rot, unsafe wiring, leaky roofs and broken plumbing, Dr Smith says. It gives the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment the power to investigate and to take action against landlords for serious breaches of tenancy laws or where the condition of a property poses a significant risk to the health and safety of tenants.

“These changes are targeting the small number of slum landlords out there whose names come up time and again but who keep getting away with it because their tenants do not have the means to fight them,” Dr Smith says.

“This is a package of detailed and practical measures which will make New Zealand rental properties warmer, drier and safer.”

Tags: nick smith - insulation - smoke alarms