New insulation and smoke alarm requirements to implement changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 have now been approved by cabinet and these changes to the tenancy law aim to make homes warmer, drier and safer for hundreds of New Zealanders without imposing excessive bureaucracy or cost.
We at Taylor are always happy to assist our landlords with education and support around how these changes will affect your investment property as well as organising any work that may be required to ensure your investment property is compliant.
The changes create new requirements for insulation and smoke alarms in all residential tenancies and will require that from 1st July 2016:
And from 1st July 2019
How will I know if I need to upgrade my insulation?
Rental properties that already have insulation installed must be upgraded if the ceiling and underfloor insulation do not meet the R-value levels set out in the table below at the time the insulation was installed. These R-values are shown in Table 1.
Table 1 – Level of insulation below which rental properties must be upgraded (product R-values)
Timber-framed minimum Masonry minimum
Ceiling R 1.9 Ceiling R 1.5
Underfloor R 0.9 Underfloor R 0.9
These levels approximate the requirements for new properties built between 1978 and 2001 (NZS4218O:1977).
If the insulation has become very compressed, is damp, damaged or is incomplete it must be upgraded to meet the requirements as shown in Table 2.
All rental properties that currently have no insulation in ceilings and underfloor must have new insulation installed to levels that have been set to approximate the current Building Code requirements for new homes.
The map below illustrates the Building Code climate zones that the table refers to, with Zone 1 being the warmest areas and Zone 3 being the coldest.
Table 2 – Minimum new and topped up insulation requirements for rented homes (product R-values)
Zone 1 & 2 Zone 3
Ceiling R 2.9 Ceiling R 3.3
Underfloor R 1.3 Underfloor R 1.3
There will be a two-stage approach for landlords to implement the insulation requirements: Social housing providers (housing where tenants pay an income-related rent for a Housing New Zealand (HNZC) or community housing provider homes) by 1st July 2016;
The remainder of the residential rental market (including boarding houses) by 1st July 2019 – The vast majority of Ray White managed properties would fall under this requirement, being on or before 1st July 2019.
Local authority housing and housing owned by Government other than HNZC (for example, properties owned by school Boards of Trustees), will be required to comply with insulation requirements by 1st July 2019.
Landlords are able to install their insulation themselves. However, if a landlord installs the insulation incorrectly they could face insurance and liability consequences for faulty or negligent installation. Please note the standard access requirements apply as set out in the Residential Tenancies Act 1986.
The following three categories of residential rental properties are excluded from the insulation requirements in the regulations:
The new smoke alarm standards will require a minimum of one working smoke alarm within three meters of each bedroom door. In a self-contained sleep-out, caravan or similar, a minimum of one working smoke alarm will be required. In a multi-level unit, there must be a working smoke alarm on each level.
The landlord must ensure that the alarm is operational at the beginning of each new tenancy. The tenant will be responsible for changing batteries during their tenancy.
Smoke alarms must be installed in all Residential rental properties by 1st July 2016.
Where there are currently no smoke alarms, long-life photoelectric alarms will need to be installed. Long-life alarms cannot have their batteries easily removed, and are more cost-effective over time because batteries do not need to be replaced every six to 12 months. If a property has existing smoke alarms that are not long-life photoelectric, landlords will not need to replace them immediately. But when they do need replacing they must be replaced with long-life photoelectric alarms.
It will be the duty of the tenants to replace smoke alarm batteries. While the responsibility for battery replacement in standard 9-volt battery alarms would remain with the tenant, the need to replace batteries would reduce over time as landlords replace existing alarm types with long-life ones.