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New law and regulations on smoke alarms and insulation

The Government introduced to Parliament today the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill and also released for consultation the associated proposed regulations for insulation and smoke alarms, Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith has announced.

“This Bill aims to make homes warmer, drier and safer for the million New Zealanders who live in rental accommodation, without imposing excessive costs,” Dr Smith says.

“The insulation requirements will apply to social housing that is heavily subsidised by Government from 1 July 2016 and to other tenancies from 1 July 2019.  All landlords will need to disclose in tenancy agreements from 1 July 2016 the extent of insulation in their rental property.  These new mandatory requirements are the next logical step after having insulated all state houses and having provided Warm Up New Zealand grants for insulating 285,000 homes.  The policy includes exemptions where it is not practical to install insulation.

“Smoke alarms will also need to be installed in all residential rental homes by 1 July next year. Regulations will make landlords responsible for ensuring operational smoke alarms are installed in their properties, and tenants responsible for changing batteries and reporting faulty alarms. Officials estimate that these changes will save an average of three lives per year, and reduce the number of fire-related injuries.”

“We are also including other targeted measures to tackle sub-standard rental properties. There are a small proportion of unsafe rental properties that have rot, unsafe wiring, leaky roofs, and broken plumbing.  These properties breach the current regulations. The answer is not more rules but better enforcement. The Bill gives new powers to the chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to investigate and take direct action against landlords for breaking tenancy laws where there is a risk to the health and safety of tenants. We are also strengthening the protection for tenants who themselves take up these issues with the Tenancy Tribunal. 

“The final change reduces the time it takes to confirm abandoned tenancies. The current process can take up to six weeks, leaving a house empty and a landlord losing weeks of rental income. The Bill creates a fast-tracked, 10-day process enabling the re-tenanting of properties where a tenant has no intention of returning.”

The regulations on insulation and smoke alarms will be consulted on in parallel with the Select Committee process. Details on the quantity of insulation and number of smoke alarms required will be determined in the regulations. The regulations will also set under what circumstance a property can be excluded. Consultation is open from Thursday 3 December 2015 and closes 11pm on Thursday 11 February 2016.

The discussion document can be viewed at The Bill will have its first reading next Tuesday and be referred to the Social Services Select Committee.   

Tags: insulation - smoke alarms