There are calls for tighter housing regulations around rental
properties after a pilot warrant of fitness trial failed more
than 90 per cent of homes it tested.
Housing advocates and politicians have hit out, saying
compulsory minimum standards should be introduced - and
actively enforced - to protect the health and safety of
The trial assessed 144 properties in Auckland, Tauranga,
Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, and found the vast
majority (94 per cent) failed on at least one of the 31
assessment criteria on the checklist.
All 31 criteria points had to be passed to gain the warrant
of fitness (WOF).
Darryl Evans, from Mangere Budgeting Services Trust, which
advocates for struggling tenants, said he was not surprised
by the findings, describing some rental properties as
It was common to find properties with exposed electrical
wires and plumbing issues, he said, adding one older person
he is working with is living in a unit with no bathroom and
only a bucket for a toilet.
Some landlords are reluctant to invest in their properties
and many are not fully aware of their legal obligations, he
said, and he called for mandatory registration of landlords
as well as regular assessments for all rental homes.
"I really am for a building warrant of fitness, but it does
have to [include] regulators out in the field making sure
that landlords are meeting a certain set of criteria."
The pilot trial was conducted by a steering group, which
included the University of Otago Wellington, NZ Green
Building Council, the councils of the five cities tested and
the Accident Compensation Corporation.
It was conducted amid increasing concern for the standard of
rental stock in the country, and looked at weathertightness,
insulation and ventilation, lighting, heating, condition of
appliances and general building safety.
New Zealand Property Investors Federation executive officer
Andrew King said while some landlords could pick up their
game, most were adhering to the Residential Tenancy Act
providing safe, sanitary and clean properties.
"If they don't, they can be fined quite a lot of money."
Instead of a warrant of fitness, Mr King said three issues
needed to be focussed on - "insulation, heating and
"One of the best things we can do is to educate the tenant
that they can complain about the property ... the tenant
might like you and not want to bother you and so they don't
tell you about these things that are going wrong."
He acknowledged that many properties failed the test, but
"most of those were on small things".
While 94 per cent of the inspected homes failed, around 36
per cent would require only a few minor fixes, estimated to
cost between $50 and $150, to pass the WOF, the trial's
"Ideally we would love to have a mandatory warrant of fitness
for rental housing, we would like to have support from
central government, because we feel it's really important to
improve substandard housing for the health of our population,
particularly the low income people and those with young
children who are over-represented," said Dr Julie Bennett
from the University of Otago Wellington, the spokeswoman for
the steering group.
"But without that happening, we'd like to go ahead and
introduce a voluntary scheme and hopefully in time we'll get
support for a mandatory scheme."
The group will now begin discussions with the councils
involved to refine the assessment, and work out how it might
be rolled out.
Landlords involved in the trial were "all really positive"
about the assessment, she said, and supported the idea of a
- 144 properties inspected, aged from the 1880s to less than
10-years-old, and ranging from detached houses to apartments.
Most were private rentals (about 70 per cent) with around 30
per cent council-owned. None were state-owned.
- The inspection checklist looked at 31 areas.
- The average time to inspect properties was 51 minutes.
- The majority of properties (94 per cent) failed at least
one criteria on the checklist - meaning only eight properties
passed the WOF.
- Top five failed criteria:
* 40 per cent of houses did not pass the water temperature
* 30 per cent of bedrooms did not have a working smoke alarm
within thre metres of the bedroom.
* 31 per cent of houses lacked code-compliant handrails and
* 37 per cent of houses did not have a fixed form of heating.
* 38 per cent of houses did not pass the security stays
- By Patrice Dougan of APNZ; additional reporting by