FAQs for Landlords & Property Managers
In July 2016, the New Zealand Government implemented amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act which affect all rental properties. This move follows trials based on a broad package of ‘Warrant of Fitness’ standards. It was deemed that a full Warrant of Fitness would be expensive both to implement and administer. Therefore, the RTA is focused on the essentials, which have proven benefits to the health and comfort of tenants. The two key measures that will be introduced are smoke alarms and insulation.
Why are these measures being introduced?
Smoke alarms reduce the risk of property damage, injury and even loss of life. If there are no smoke alarms in the property, the standard will require long-life photoelectric alarms to be installed.
Insulation is well-known to have the largest impact on the thermal performance of a home, and can make it more energy efficient, and more comfortable and healthier for tenants. But it is the health implications that the Government are focusing on, and by improving the quality of housing stock (both public and private), it will significantly reduce the demand on the healthcare system. New Zealand has the highest rates of asthma and respiratory illness in the world, caused primarily by poor housing conditions.
Will my rental property need upgrading?
All rental properties will require the installation of smoke alarms by July 2019. If your property already has smoke alarms, they will need to be replaced with long-life photoelectric alarms only when the smoke alarm needs replacing. If there are no smoke alarms in the property it will need to be fitted with long-life photoelectric alarms.
The minimum requirement for smoke alarms is to have one working smoke alarm in the hall, within three metres of each bedroom door.
All rentals will require adequate ceiling and underfloor insulation, as long as they are accessible, i.e. flat skillion roofs with no access or under floors with no crawl space are currently exempt. If your rental was built before 1977 and is still in its original state, it most likely won’t have any insulation installed. Homes built after 1977 may require an insulation top-up to bring the performance levels up to modern standards. Insulation must also be in good condition, otherwise it will need repairing or replacing.
How much insulation will I need?
We recommend landlords and property managers meet or exceed the following levels to future-proof the property. Increased levels of insulation can contribute to a warmer and drier home, and reduce the chance of mould, which can damage the property. Instead of waiting, we recommend that you act now with both measures and make your homes safer, more comfortable and healthier for your tenants.
What will happen if my property does not comply?
The Government will be working on an honesty system. They will not be keeping a register of properties, nor will they be conducting audits. They are however increasing the powers of Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to take direct action against landlords in serious cases where there is significant risk to tenant health and safety. Where a tenant considers a property to be sub-standard, they will be able to take their cases to the Tenancy Tribunal, whom in turn can authorise work orders and award damages of up to $4000. Don’t risk letting it get to that stage – it’s simple enough to ensure your property or portfolio is in compliance.
Will insulation requirements be tax deductible?
This depends on whether it is replacement insulation or new insulation. New insulation is considered an improvement and is a capital expense. For most properties, the insulation investment will not be a tax deductible expense.
Can I install insulation over the top of old insulation?
For ceilings, yes. If you have old depleted insulation, or inconsistent cover you can just install insulation right over the top. For under floors, the regulations state that damaged foils must not be repaired, and must be replaced with a new compliant insulation. We recommend installing insulation with a wind-wash barrier. All installations must be completed in accordance to NZS 4246 standard.
What are my options to get insulation installed?
Essentially you have two options. You can do it yourself or you can get a professional to do it for you. The Government have not restricted how this work is to be completed, which gives you the flexibility to select the installation method that best suits your budget. If you wish to DIY you will also save the cost of labour.
Alternatively, your tenant may be a qualified tradesman or skilled handyman. Given the chance to make their home warmer, drier and healthier it may be worth asking them whether they will install the insulation you provide. Purchase Earthwool® glasswool from Bunnings yourself, drop it off, and you both win. Remember, all installations must be completed in accordance with NZS 4246 standard.
How easy is DIY?
Modern insulation such as Earthwool® glasswool is super-soft and easy to cut and handle, to make installation more comfortable. Comprehensive step by step installation instructions are also readily available to guide you through the installation process to ensure you are able to confidently install the insulation yourself. The installation of insulation must also be in accordance with NZS 4246. View our DIY videos or read our install instructions.
Can I install aluminum foil under my rental property?
No. The Government has banned the use of foil or conductive materials due to it being a safety hazard. Old foils are also likely to be degraded and non-compliant. These need to be carefully removed, and replaced with new compliant insulation.
What if there is insulation in my property, but it is not in good condition?
All damaged insulation will need to be replaced and installed to the new levels. Damage includes (but is not limited to) dampness, rips, tears, settlement or compression, vermin nests, holes, mould or other contamination. If there are numerous areas of damage it will probably be easier to retrofit a new layer over the top of the whole ceiling. It is important that insulation stays dry to remain effective. Leaks from roofs or plumbing need to be fixed before new insulation is installed.
Installing or repairing electrically conductive underfloor insulation is prohibited under the regulations and carries large penalties. If the underfloor foil is damaged such as degradation to its reflective coating, is ripped, torn or incomplete, it will need to be carefully removed and replaced with new compliant insulation.