'Warrant of fitness' for rentals closer

WARRANT OF FITNESS: Only 10 per cent of homes passed the rental warrant of fitness.
Fairfax NZ
WARRANT OF FITNESS: Only 10 per cent of homes passed the rental warrant of fitness.

A rental home "warrant of fitness" will be tweaked after feedback from a recent trial.

About 140 homes in New Zealand's main centres were given a once-over by experts in a pilot aimed at drafting a practical rental home checklist. Christchurch was part of the pilot scheme.

The result, released last week, was that only 10 per cent of the homes passed.

A spokeswoman for the steering group behind the trial, Julie Bennett from Otago University, said another 36 per cent of the homes would pass with minor fixes using $50 to $150 worth of hardware.

Easy fixes included installing smoke alarms or smoke alarm batteries, changing lightbulbs and adjusting hot-water temperatures. Costlier fixes included putting in fixed heating systems.

Some of the items on the checklist, such as a requirement for security stays on windows, have been rethought and will be dropped from the list.

The draft warrant of fitness (WoF) had 31 criteria, including weathertightness, insulation, ventilation, lighting, heating, condition of appliances and general building safety.

It found the overall condition of the homes participating was good.

"We have received good feedback from landlords, tenants and the assessors and we are now going back to look at the checklist and criteria to make sure we have a robust and usable housing WoF for the rental market," Bennett said.

After the inspection system has been refined it will go to participating councils for feedback. Discussions with central government and investigations into how best to introduce the scheme will follow.

The project is a co-operative effort by the university, ACC, the Green Building Council and local councils, and is aimed at making rental housing safer, healthier and more energy efficient. Bennett said landlords, assessors and tenants provided valuable information in the field trial.

"The trial was really important so that we could gain an understanding about what is going to work for landlords, assessors and tenants.

"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."

Key information gathered from the field trial and subsequent interviews was:

- Landlords surveyed were supportive of a WoF.

- Most dwellings failed on only a handful of the 31 inspection items.

- Ages of the homes range from over 125 to less than 10 years old.

- Average time taken to inspect houses was 51 minutes.

- Top five failure criteria were: 1. water temperature (40%) 2. security stays (38%) 3. no fixed heating (37%) 4. non-compliant handrails (31%) 5. no smoke alarms within 3m of bedrooms (30%)

The Press