It seems though, that New Zealand is not alone in its requirement for this mandate; indeed, there appears to be a global trend to ensure landlords complete basic upgrades to old residential stock.
In the UK, new laws came in from October 2015 requiring private landlords to fit smoke alarms on each floor of their rental properties or face a £5,000 fine. Yet, last week, UK newspaper, The Guardian, reported that the most recent figures from the English Housing Survey revealed that while 88% of households in 2014/2015 had at least one working smoke alarm, which cost as little as £4, only 81% of private renters did. Read the article.
In reality, the problem at the heart of this issue, certainly in New Zealand, is that the buildings we’re talking about, (those rented to students and low income families), are old. The government can enforce these laws, but the result may be that when required to carry out major overhauls, landlords could also begin to raise rents above the affordable threshold for these demographics. If this is the case, there will come a point these old buildings will not be viable rental options, so a balanced view needs to be taken.
Could this new legislation just be a way of saying that old buildings are past their use by date? They are old, cold, damp and often unsafe, but for many landlords they still make money and sadly, some tenants can afford nothing better and therefore, are prepared to live in them. Let’s face it; even our modern buildings in NZ are not always warm enough compared to world standards. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum indoor temperature of 18°C, and ideally 21°C if babies or elderly people live in the house. The average daily indoor temperature in the winter for most New Zealand houses is just 16°C. Read the article here . Our homes are still cold in 2016! So is the requirement for floor and ceiling insulation from 2019 really going to cut the mustard?
As for smoke alarms… The law only requires an outdated battery operated alarm in owner occupied homes. This safety standard falls well short of the rules that govern our friends across the ditch, in Australia interconnected hard-wired smoke alarms are mandatory.
If hard-wired solutions are a step too far for implementation, then why not make long life smoke alarms mandatory across the board? Not just where new alarms are being installed.
I have just replaced the smoke detectors in the house I bought last year. The new ones have a ten-year life (with no need to replace the batteries during this time); one in the pack was a thermal heat alarm, two were smoke alarms. I urge you to do the same whether you are a landlord or a homeowner, be safe in the knowledge that you will be acting with superiority and in excess of New Zealand building code requirements!
If you’re a landlord or a property/facility manager and would like to stay up to date with how your building should stand up to the Building Act 2004, find out more about how I can help on my Building Networks website.