“Every winter between 25 - 30,000 Kiwi [children] end up in hospital with respiratory infections and illnesses caused by living in cold, damp houses.”1
In July 2015, the Government announced changes to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) to improve the insulation levels in rental properties. The objective is to improve the thermal performance of the property to ensure tenants are kept warm and comfortable during the cold winter months and therefore reduce the risk of health problems inflicted by under-performing homes. An insulated home will use approximately 20 per cent less energy than an uninsulated home*.
Implementing compulsory insulation will not only improve the thermal performance of a property but will also reduce energy bills.
As there is no full Warrant of Fitness on the Bill, the enforcement of the standards will rely on disclosure in tenancy agreements and via tenant complaints. This causes tenants to be at a loss, especially those living in poverty or with a disability as they are less likely to take on their landlords. It is proposed that all rental properties undergo inspections to ensure the insulation levels meet current standards.Knauf Insulation recently lobbied for the proposed compulsory insulation levels to be higher. The Bill currently suggests that rental properties with existing insulation, that meets the 1978 standards is acceptable, however these levels do not adequately meet today’s Building Code, therefore depriving tenants the best quality of living. The insulation standards set by the new Bill should encourage higher insulation levels that are typically used in new construction.
By 2019, the strengthened RTA Bill is expected to be rolled out and implemented into every New Zealand rental property. In this timeframe, based on the aforementioned statistic, approximately 100,000 - 120,000 children will end up in hospital with respiratory infections and illnesses caused by living in cold, damp houses. This alone is reason enough for the bill to be pushed through and implemented faster.
The proposed changes in the Bill are a welcoming push towards the increase in warm, dry and affordable homes for everyone, but it needs to go further. Insulation levels need to meet today’s Building Code to allow for a decrease in energy use and savings. The higher the level of insulation installed, the less energy used for heating and cooling and the healthier the home; this is the message that needs to become clearly understood by the Government. This argument is something Knauf Insulation will continue to lobby for and actively make understood to both the Government, but also landlords and tenants.
Let’s not allow for an increase in respiratory infections and illnesses from cold damp houses, rather a decrease through encouraging healthier, more energy efficient homes, by pushing for the Governments decision on mandatory insulation to be made sooner rather than later, but further push for levels of mandatory insulation to be higher.
Keep an eye on www.thinkinsulation.co.nz for regular updates and news on the RTA.