Trial shows value in rental housing Wof

None of Dunedin's houses will pass a rental warrant of fitness if the standards used during a recent trial of scheme are applied.

There were still positives in the trial's results, despite the revelation that all 24 Dunedin houses assessed as part of the national warrant of fitness trial (Wof) for rental houses had failed, Dunedin City Council events and community development manager Rebecca Williams said.

''There's no significant variation between regions,'' she said.

''I was surprised there was no significant regional variation, because Dunedin's houses are bigger, so colder, and older.''

Dunedin's houses were on average built in 1959 (second oldest to Wellington's average of 1957) and on average were 109sq m in size (the largest in the trial).

Some houses were close to passing and the trial was a ''test'' to help design and define final rental housing Wof standards, she said.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the trial ''made it clear'' a rental housing Wof would be a useful tool for tenants and landlords.

''A rental housing Wof system would be very useful helping prospective tenants to make a call on whether a house is safe, healthy and energy efficient, making it warmer and more comfortable to live in,'' he said.

''Hopefully, this would mean tenants would stay in their rental home for longer, which is good for both landlords and tenants.''

The trial, which assessed 144 properties across Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, found 94% failed on at least one of the 31 criteria on the checklist.

The inspections, carried out by home assessment experts, looked at weather-tightness, insulation and ventilation, lighting, heating, condition of appliances and general building safety.

About 36% of the homes inspected would require only minor fixes, estimated to cost between $50 and $150, to pass the Wof, the trial's organisers said.

Some changes were as minor as inserting batteries in smoke alarms or adjusting water temperature.

The trial Wof comes amid calls for the introduction of a standardised criteria for rental properties.

It tested a range of areas that could be included in a housing Wof, aiming to identify aspects such as average assessment times and how to best communicate results to landlords and tenants.

The assessment tool was developed by the New Zealand Green Building Council and the University of Otago, Wellington, with feedback and input from the five councils, and the Accident Compensation Corporation.

''For a housing Wof to work, it has to add value for the landlords and we needed to actually trial the draft Wof checklist and methodology,'' steering groups spokeswoman Dr Julie Bennett, of Otago University Wellington, said.

Home inspections
- 144 properties inspected, aged from the 1880s to less than 10 years old, and ranging from detached houses to apartments.
- The inspection checklist looked at 31 areas.
- Average time to inspect properties was 51 minutes.
- Most properties (94%) failed the checklist.

Top five failed criteria
- 40% of houses did not pass water temperature check.
- 30% of bedrooms did not have a working smoke alarm within 3m of bedroom.
- 31% of houses lacked code-compliant handrails and balustrades.
- 37% of houses did not pass check for having a fixed form of heating.
- 38% of houses did not pass security stays check.

- Additional reporting by Patrice Dougan


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