Healthier flats may burn tenants

Investors raise insulation concerns

KELSEY WILKIE
Last updated 09:00 21/06/2014
 Fraser Clark, Robert Marsh and Scott Cudby
WARM FUZZIES: Flatmates from left; Fraser Clark, Robert Marsh and Scott Cudby try to keep the cold at bay, watching television from their terraced couches in onesies.

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Concerns have been raised by property investors over the impact on rental prices if compulsory insulation and heating standards are introduced.

Tenants of a Palmerston North flat said they would rather "rough it" through winter than shell out more money on rent.

New Zealand Property Investors Federation executive officer Andrew King said the federation has concerns that Labour MP Phil Twyford's Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill could reduce the supply of rental properties and put strain on tenants through unnecessarily high rental prices.

"Many tenants already cannot afford to heat their homes and higher rental prices would only make the matter worse," King said.

The bill would require all rental housing - state, social and private sector - to meet minimum health and safety standards in regard to insulation and effective non-polluting heating.

Landlords would also have to make a declaration, or guarantee, as part of any new tenancy agreement that their property complied with the standards.

The Tenancy Tribunal would be given powers to enforce the standard.

When the temperature drops in Palmerston North, Fraser Clarke, 21, Scott Cudby, 22, and Robert Marsh, 21, go to extreme measures to avoid extra electricity costs.

They put on their onesies, throw over a blanket instead of turning on a heater, and hang a blanket from the doorway to the living room in an attempt to stop the heat from escaping.

If it gets really cold they turn the oven on and leave the oven door open to heat the three-bedroom flat.

"For the last two years we've had no heating at all, we just rough it out and chuck on a few blankets," Clarke said.

"We're happy with that because we get a lower rent rate.

"I know quite a few people who have heat pumps but don't use them because they're too expensive."

King said additional rental costs weren't going to help encourage people to spend more on heating.

He said the federation would rather see the government provide an incentive to get landlords to provide the services instead of a compulsory legislation.

Manawatu Property Investors' Association president Pauline Beissel said they encourage members to provide an insulated and warm rental property as it encourages tenants to stay longer, which she said makes good business sense.

Twyford said he expects the changes to make little to no difference in rental costs.

He said he is mystified by the NZPIF announcement because in March this year the federation expressed support for the bill.

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He said only a small number of landlords had opted for the government funded Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes programme, which is why Labour think it is time to set minimum standards.

The Warm Up New Zealand programme is targeted at low-income households for home insulation, particularly households occupied by children and/or the elderly.

He said he thought the reason for a lack of interest from landlords in the programme was because there was no direct financial incentive for landlords to insulate and heat their homes.

"We cannot have so many children growing up in uninsulated homes."

- Manawatu Standard

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