Insulating homes against legal trouble

Many ordinary families now own an investment property or two, but how many of them are completely familiar with their obligations as landlords? Unfortunately for them – and their tenants – the answer is not as many as you’d expect.

Well, last year the law got tougher on landlords to meet some basic conditions for providing a safe and healthy home.  It pays for landlords to take proper notice, and tenants should take action if they don’t think the new conditions are being met.

The first is that all rental properties must have working smoke alarms in effective places. New or replacement alarms should have a minimum 8 year battery life or, even better, be hard wired. Both landlords and tenants have obligations to keep those smoke alarms functional (like not taking batteries out – doh!), with some pretty hefty penalties if you fail to do so. A $3,000- $4,000 fine would probably put an unwelcome dent in your bank account…

So make sure those alarms are properly installed. For older models, take the Fire Service’s advice: test the alarm whenever the clocks change and change the battery once a year – plus, if that annoying beep starts up to let you know the battery’s dying, do something about it pronto!

Life should also become a lot more comfortable for tenants in old draughty homes. The insulation requirements step up a gear with all landlords having to insulate underfloors and ceilings by 1 July 2019 (unless it’s not practical, for instance because there’s no access, or if there is another apartment above or below).

All new tenancy agreements must also contain insulation statements giving the location, type and condition of insulation in the property.

Landlords can come into rental properties to install the insulation if they give 24 hours’ notice.  (This is a shorter time than for a property inspection, where landlords have to give 48 hours’ notice – it shows how important it is.)

The insulation must be of a certain standard which varies depending on the area of New Zealand the property is in. If it’s not up to standard, it must be upgraded by being topped up or replaced.

The Tenancy Services website has some great information about these standards, the best location for smoke alarms and insulation installers.  We can give advice on more complex situations as required. Check out the options for funding grants for insulation to help out with the costs too.

It can be hard to keep up to speed, so if you’re a landlord, you may wish to consider using a property manager. There are lots of companies around, but we can refer you to a few reliable options if you like.

Alternatively, for both landlords and tenants, we could give your tenancy agreement a quick once-over to make sure it covers what it needs to.