New rental housing legislation; tenants could be exploited

Tenants could be exploited under proposed laws requiring rentals to be insulated and have smoke alarms, Catholic advocacy and aid agency Caritas Aotearoa says.

Under the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill, (RTA) ceiling and underfloor insulation will need to be retrofitted in social housing by July, and in all other rental homes by July 2019.

It could cost landlords up to $3000 per property to comply.

The Social Services Select Committee is currently hearing submissions on the bill.

Caritas Aotearoa manager Lisa Beech told Parliament’s Social Services Select Committee there would be nothing to stop landlords from passing that cost on to tenants.

In some of those rentals the upgrades were necessary, rather than being nice-to-haves, she said.

“We wouldn’t allow people to sell rotten fruit in supermarkets and then charge the consumer for checking that they actually get what they paid for.

I think there’s an element in housing in which we’re leaving tenants to complain about the quality of housing they’re receiving.”

The Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills has labelled the RTA amendment  Bill as “shameful” and says it will do little to improve conditions for children living in cold, damp, mouldy housing.

Wills is asking the Government to amend the Bill to include three elements that would ensure houses are warm and dry:

1. Require all houses meet the current insulation standard

2. Apply a heating and ventilation standard

3. Introduce monitoring or enforcement by local government, with inspections – rather than requiring tenants to complain

The RTA currently places a general obligation on landlords to maintain the premises in a reasonable state of cleanliness and repair.

Without the proposed amendments landlords have been required to comply with all laws in respect of buildings, health, and safety under any enactment in so far as they apply to the premises.

Examples include the provision of adequate ventilation and lighting, and an approved form of heating in every living room.

There has been no requirement in either the RTA or any other legislation for either smoke alarms or insulation to be provided at a premises.


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