Stuff.co.nz has reported (17/05/2014) on the call by a landlord group for councils to provide insulation incentives and heating vouchers instead of the rental housing Warrant Of Fitness (WOF) that has been proposed. Results from field trials of a housing "warrant of fitness" has been released by five major councils. The WOF included lighting, insulation and health and safety.
Most of the 144 houses that were assessed in Christchurch, Auckland, Dunedin, Wellington and Tauranga actually failed at least one item of the 31 requirements on the WOF list. The WOF steering group highlighted that many of the failures were insignificant and the result was a surprise. Julie Bennett, WOF steering group spokesperson, said that they only failed on minor items like a light bulb not working or hot water that was too hot. The councils are due to give feedback to the steering committee to help fine tune the WOF for national use.
Ms Bennett highlighted that it was only a minimum standard and there was no talk of making it mandatory. The aim is a reduction in healthcare costs. While there is a cost involved, it does not require double glazing or ventilation systems. Landlords did raise concerns on some items on the checklist, including the need for fixed heating such as woodburners or heatpumps and compliant handrails and balustrades.
Where possible, houses were checked for underfloor and ceiling insulation. Around 29 per cent of houses in the field trial did not have ceiling insulation up to current building code and 20 per cent of houses failed on both counts. Ms Bennett agreed that it would be challenging to ensure landlords to insulate if they had not responded to grants provided by the government.
The New Zealand Property Investor Federation, NZPIF, said that they were very positive about insulation but unfortunately it was no help to those that were too poor to heat their houses. Andrew King, president of NZPIF, said that tax deductions on insulation and heating vouchers were a more effective way to keep houses warm. He was also mentioned that landlords were concerned that the WOF would be unnecessary, expensive and lead to an increase in rents.
Director of the Green Building Council's Homestar rating programme, Leigh Featherstone, said that now the most practical and effective of the assessment criteria could be selected to go forward with. He opposed the view of those who said that underfloor and ceiling insulation would be too difficult to impose on NZ's 400,000 or so rental properties. He said that the general standard people expect now is a home that is well insulated.