Make a submission to improve NZ housing

Every winter between 25 - 30,000 Kiwi kids end up in hospitals with respiratory infections and illnesses caused by living in cold, damp houses. [1]

We say enough is enough.

After a surge of public pressure last year, the government announced changes to our minimum housing standards in rental properties to improve this dire situation. The changes are a welcome first step on the path to warm, dry and affordable homes for everyone but they don’t go far enough. 

The government are seeking public input on the issue of quality rental housing until Jan 27th so we’ve set up this easy to use form for making submissions. At the bottom of this page you'll find expert recommendations from our campaign partners for you to use in your submission. Feel free to copy and paste the parts that are important to you, or just use our form to make your own submission. You don’t need to be an expert to have a say. Often a story from your own personal experience can be the most compelling submission of all.

Reference:

1. ‘Health and cold damp houses’ Environmental Health Indicators NZ

Click the links below to read our expert recommendations:

The Bill doesn’t go far enough in terms of the standard of insulation for maximum environmental impact and safety:

  • The bill is a great start – compulsory insulation will mean warmer, drier and healthier homes for tenants and lower maintenance for landlords.

  • It’s important that the insulation meets today’s standards – the bill suggests existing insulation should be acceptable if it meets standards set in 1978, but we think the bill should set insulation thickness consistent with today’s building code.

  • Lower insulation standards mean that more energy than necessary will need to be used on heating or cooling a house.

  • To avoid dangerous and substandard installs, the bill needs to set out better health and safety standards, including an independent monitoring system and higher penalties for landlords that don’t comply

  • To reduce the risk to installers of death by electrocution, foil – an underfloor insulation material – needs to be removed from the list of allowable materials.

  • Although the standards will be better for the environment than not having them, the earth is already in a dangerous place with regard to human environmental impact. The timetable of four years for all the improvements to go into effect is too long to make a difference in the long-term environmental trajectory of the planet.

  • The bill needs to include the requirement for property owners to provide a cost-efficient form of heating, such as a heat pump.

  • The bill needs to include the requirement for properties to be properly ventilated, especially around wet areas like bathrooms and kitchens.


There could be a negative effect on those living in poverty, or with a disability:

  • Lower insulation standards mean that it will be more expensive to heat or cool a house than if standards were higher.

  • Higher standards would be good, but in some cases this could lead to higher rents which could be damaging for people already struggling to pay rent and we should make sure to address this issue as well. One possible solution is to have a rent-control system similar to that in other countries (US, UK, Canada), so that there would be a maximum possible amount that rent could be increased over a period. In order for prices to be controlled as a result of the bill’s improvements, rent control laws would need to be enacted prior to passage of the bill.

  • Any effects of the bill will impact lower and middle income people more, as they are more likely to rent. Of these, a large proportion are Māori and Pasifika. This needs to be taken into consideration.

  • Some of the poorest quality dwellings (those that people on the lowest incomes would be able to afford) are excluded from the standards. The result is that many of the buildings that need the most improvement will not receive any retrofitting at all.

  • People living in poverty or with disabilities are less likely to take on their landlords. If tenants are not protected sufficiently from retaliation, lower income people might not push to have their dwellings meet the standards of the bill.  This needs to be addressed.


The Bill doesn’t go far enough for children’s health and family wellbeing:

  • Low insulation standards coupled with a lack of fixed heating requirements means houses could continue to be cold and uncomfortable to live in.

  • The lack of mould or ventilation standards is a problem, especially in moist conditions.  A lack of adequate ventilation, heating, and insulation are causes of mould growth. Mould causes health problems, including allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs.Rental houses are more likely to have mould than owner-occupied ones. Twelve percent of children live in homes with serious cold, damp and mould problems and this contributes to 40,000 hospitalisations of children every year.

  • The bill has a timeframe of four years for implementation. In that span of time, children and families will continue to live in poor conditions. The bill should be implemented more quickly if at all possible.

  • A full Warrant of Fitness has been rejected on the grounds that it would be too expensive. The result is that the intended benefits of the bill will likely not be achieved. A full Warrant of Fitness would be more expensive, but would lead to benefits in excess of the greater costs.

  • Since some of the poorest quality dwellings would be excluded from the standards, the benefits of the bill’s regulations would not be as widespread as they could be.

  • An active full Warrant of Fitness would lead to inspections of dwellings. Since there is no full Warrant of Fitness in the bill, enforcement of the standards would have to rely on disclosure in tenancy agreements and complaints by tenants. Inspections would be a more powerful way to ensure standards are being met.

Tenants are not protected well enough from retaliation on the part of their landlord:

  • Tenants are not protected well enough by the bill. If they bring an issue to the attention of the Building and Housing Ministry, they could still be subject to retaliation on the part of their landlord. The bill allows tenants to seek a judgment that they received an eviction notice in retaliation for their actions within 28 days, as well as for a $2000 fine to be levied against the landlord. While an improvement, these provisions might not be enough. The fine might be too low to dissuade landlords, and the time allotted for tenants to bring their eviction notices to the attention of the Ministry might not be enough for them to be aware of and consider their options.

  • The bill should include support for community organisations, such as students' associations, to take multiple tenants' cases to the Tenancy Tribunal where a property owner is non-compliant across many properties or repeatedly over time.


Make a submission on the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill

Please note: Under parliamentary requirements all submissions will be made public.


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