All Dunedin rentals 'failed Wof'

Otago chairwoman of the Property Investors Association Wendy Bowman is sceptical about the proposed housing warrant of fitness scheme. Photo by Samantha McPherson.
Otago chairwoman of the Property Investors Association Wendy Bowman is sceptical about the proposed housing warrant of fitness scheme. Photo by Samantha McPherson.

A warrant of fitness scheme to improve the health and safety of New Zealand's rental houses is coming under fire for being too strict while others are saying it is just the first step. Dan Hutchinson explores the latest developments.

A Dunedin property investors' spokeswoman says she does not believe any of the 125 houses trialled under a new warrant of fitness (Wof) scheme have passed the test. 

Those involved in the trial refused to release any results of the tests that were done over the past few weeks on houses in five cities around the country, including Dunedin.

The Wof-style checklist was developed at the University of Otago (Wellington) and the trial is run by the New Zealand Green Building Council.

Otago Property Investors Association president Wendy Bowman said there were so many criteria to pass in the Wof that no house could pass first time around.

She had been in contact with some of those involved in organising and conducting the trials and would be interested to see the report when it was released in about two weeks.

''Actually, I don't think any [houses] in New Zealand have passed or would pass. Even the newer ones, I don't think would pass.

''The Dunedin City Council didn't expect any of their properties to pass, so it is basically putting out a tool to see how it works.''

About half of the 25 properties that were tested in Dunedin are understood to be council flats but the council's events and community development manager, Rebecca Williams, would not confirm they had failed to make the grade.

''That is speculation at the moment until we get the report ... I am not prepared to comment on that until the report has been released, so, yes I do know, but there is a process in train.''

Local authorities and private investors in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Tauranga and Auckland are all involved in the trial.

The checklist is based on research by the Housing and Health Research Programme, led by University of Otago (Wellington) professor Philipa Howden-Chapman. It also has the support of the Accident Compensation Corporation.

Mrs Williams said it was ''a trial of a tool'' and they were a long way from anything being mandatory.

''We have always been really clear that on the whole we think landlords are doing a great job. However, there is a need to improve New Zealand's housing stock and this is a way of doing that.''

Ms Bowman said if property investors were made to comply with ''a blanket approach'' then the costs for tenants would go up.

There was already pressure on landlords to provide effective insulation and heating and they would struggle to rent out their properties if they were not up to scratch, she said..

A lot of the items in the Wof were small things that were not found in most houses and others were things that should be fixed anyway, she said.

''If someone trips, you have to have a hand rail there in case they fall over ... and, believe it or not, ensure there is flushing water in the toilet.''

There will be a meeting of interested parties next month.


Do you own rental property?

Do you own rental property TomH?

If so you will realise that a landlord has to pay for the property, which may have a mortgage; pay ridiculous rates; Pay any and all repairs tenants and their friends are responsible for but may not pay for (bond is usually only 2 weeks rent); pay insurance, which is up 20% in the last year; pay plumbers and electricians, and maybe the DCC for new bins that tenants break; do all the gardening (tenants do not do much of that); pay at least $100 to advertise the property for new tenants' and clean and repair before the next tenants come in and begin it all again.

Landlords are always wondering whether tenants will pay the rent; whether they will they keep the agreement and not get a dog when you are not looking; whether they will they smoke inside, disregarding the rental property agreement; whether they will keep communication open or close off and make me chase after them; and whether they will start a P lab.

Most landlords provide good, clean, warm dry, cheap accommodation for most tenants. But soon there could well be a dearth of rental properties because rental property rates, insurance and mortgages are going up, up, up.

But rentals for other poor folks don't matter

"Dunedin is known NZ wide for the shocking state of many of its students rentals."  You know what, Dunedin Born?  I couldn't give a toss about "student" rentals.  If landlords take advantage of their readiness to pay high rent to live in low-grade housing that is close enough to the university to save them time getting to classes that's their choice.  If Dunedin Born were to take notice of non-student rentals choices other than in Dunedin she would find real issues to worry about.  Workers, families in Christchurch?  People crowded into cold shabby houses and garages and sleepouts and cars and caravans and sheds in Auckland because they cannot find housing of any standard, that they can afford.  Let's not make too much fuss about poor ickle helpless students - they've got more access to accommodation assistance and advice than beneficiaries and miminum-pay workers anywhere, and they have more access to loans at reasonable (not extortionate) interest rates.

Scare tactics by landlords

Of course there won't be a shortage of rental housing - landlords are not going to pull their properties out and just leave them sitting there without any return unless they are loaded and are just trying to prove a point, if so then they obviously can afford to do any required work.

And if they do decide it is too tough and sell up, well the people who buy the property will either live in it themselves  (shock, horror - family buys ex-rental house to own and live in) or do the required work and rent it out.

At this point in time landlord property owners have one of the best markets in the world with no capital gains tax on investment properties, I shed no tears at all for them.


Well Ms Bowman, if you think it is too tough, than present an alternative check list.  That way we would know you and your association take the needs of tenants seriously.  Dunedin is known NZ wide for the shocking state of many of its students rentals. Why some landlords think they should get away with no regulations escapes me. 

A WoF is a good thing

I read the article and as a landlord I find it hard to believe that the basic essentials are not somehow manditory.  A flushing toilet would be one,  safety related issues like handrails should be another.  Insulation and effective heating and ventilation would also be on my list.  That's only right.  Frankly, no landlord should offer a house for rent that he/she wouldn't live in themselves. And if they 'can't afford' to make those basic improvements to their properties then they shouldn't be in the rental business.

Build more bridges

Hopefully the WOF test doesn't create a homelessness problem. If a high proportion of rental accommodation is taken off the market because they all fail the WOF test then I cant see anything else happening. Maybe the council can build more bridges to sleep under for people that cannot find any rental accommodation.

Rental housing

Certainly some rental accommodation is best renovated with a bulldozer. But there is a huge bulk that is very acceptable and at the end of the day it's a tenant's choice, if it's up to scratch, or they would rather look elsewhere . My point is, if the Warrant of Fitness is so tough, and 90% of the houses fail, deemed too expenive to repair and now not a return on the expended monies, wouldn't that create a huge rental pool depletion ?.. I know some are going to say good to that, others would say that's great as these would be sold on to home buyers, If that is they can raise the 20%, but there is a lot of people who don't want to buy, just rent, what happens to those people? Just tough luck ? 

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