Bradford calls on Australian government to match NZ residential insulation requirements

The New Zealand government has announced plans to strengthen residential tenancy laws.

The new laws are good news for the insulation industry, tenants and home owners.

  • All rental properties must be insulated by July 2019, though exemptions apply to properties where it is physically impractical to retrofit insulation.
  • New powers to prosecute landlords for breaking tenancy regulations, particularly where there is risk to tenants' health and safety.
  • The changes also ensure tenants can take concerns to the Tenancy Tribunal without fear of retaliatory evictions.

NZ Housing Minister Nick Smith announced the plans, explaining how it will strengthen residential tenancy laws. "The new law will require retrofitting of ceiling and underfloor insulation in rental homes over the next four years," Dr Smith said in a statement.

The requirement would apply from July 2015 for Government-subsidised social housing, and from July 2019 for all other rentals including boarding houses. There would be some exceptions, such as in houses where it was physically impossible to retrofit insulation.

"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."

Dr Smith said landlords would save money in the long run from investing in insulation.

"The insulation retrofitting is expected to cost $600 million NZD, with benefits of $2.10 NZD for each dollar of this cost."

180,000 New Zealand homes required insulation. "The health benefits of this will be reduced hospitalisations from circulatory and respiratory illnesses, reduced pharmaceutical costs, and fewer days off work and school," Dr Smith said.

The NZ Government said the average cost of retrofitting both ceiling and floor insulation was about $3300 NZD. Landlords could apply for a subsidy through the "Warm up New Zealand: Healthy Homes" scheme, but funding for that programme was only guaranteed to run till next June.

Bradford Insulation Marketing Manager Australia New Zealand, Peter Ruz, applauded the New Zealand government for tackling this issue.

“We have known for a long time that there is a major problem in the area of providing comfortable and energy efficient housing to renters. This is because the landlord typically does not see value in improving the performance of a property they do not live in. This type of market failure is what we elect governments to fix, because the social good (to the renters and also to the community) outweighs the individual cost to the landlord.”

Mr Ruz called on the Australian government to implement similar measures, and highlighted the positive effect insulation can have on household health, welfare and energy costs.

“It’s great to see the New Zealand government tackle this issue and CSR Bradford hopes that progressive governments in Australia will also look to introduce something similar to improve the health and welfare of people living in rental properties, also helping them save on their energy costs at a time when these are increasing at a much higher rate than inflation”.

Tenants' Protection Association (Auckland) coordinator Angela Maynard was thrilled by the changes which would help thousands of Auckland tenants keep safer and warm.

This would make Kiwi renters' lives more pleasant and mean long-term rental arrangements were considered more acceptable and safe, "rather than something that is considered an alternative to the norm".

NZ Labour and NZ Greens have been lobbying Government to introduce warrants of fitness for rental properties.

Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the new policy was a step in the right direction.

The national student union NZUSA has "cautiously welcomed" the announcement, but says the government must get the law right before getting the unions "sign off".

Auckland deputy mayor Penny Hulse said the move was "a reasonable first step".

Referenced from The New Zealand Herald article ‘Government strengthens residential tenancy laws’ by Isaac Davison. Click here to read.
19 Aug 2015

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