All Dunedin rentals 'failed Wof'

Otago chairwoman of the Property Investors Association Wendy Bowman is sceptical about the...
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.


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