Is a WOF for rental properties the answer?
Wellington Council is introducing a voluntary Warrant of Fitness for rental properties that they intend to make compulsory in three years. The council says that they want to raise standards and that "every Wellingtonian deserves a warm dry home".
"The Property Investors' Federation agrees with this sentiment” says Andrew King, executive officer. “That's why we supported the rental property minimum standards introduced by Government last year, making insulation in rental properties compulsory by 2019.”
“Ninety two percent of our members’ rental properties are already insulated, with just 17% needing extra insulation to make the new standards”, says King. “This was achieved by the NZPIF negotiating genuine discounts on insulation and heating products for our members. We have also encouraged and educated members on the benefits in providing a good standard of rental property.”
Rental advocacy groups say that the health of tenants is a key reason for needing a rental property WOF. Unfortunately it isn't that easy. The sad case of a two year old girl dying partly because her house was cold demonstrates this. This Housing NZ home she lived in had insulation, a ventilation system and a heat pump, so would have passed Wellington's WOF. A WOF is not the answer to keeping children out of hospital.
A rental property WOF and all its associated costs would be applicable to all rental properties while targeting help for those families who actually have a health related issue would have significantly better results for those in need.
Making it easier and cheaper for rental property owners to provide insulation and energy efficient heating would be of more benefit to tenants than employing an army of clipboard holders to inspect every rental property in New Zealand.
Victoria University Students' Association supports a compulsory WOF. Their president, Rory Lenihan-Ikin, says "Every day we see students getting sick in cold, mouldy flats and having no power to change it". This is not quite true. There are currently 370 rental properties available to rent in the central Wellington. If their rental accommodation is not suitable, students can move to accommodation that is. However it is a reality that this accommodation will cost more.
The average cost of rental property in the Wellington Central suburbs is $451. However the average price of rentals that promote having a heat pump is $545. Naturally there will be other factors apart from heat pumps producing this result, but it shows that rentals with better quality features will cost more.
Students do have the "power to change" but they may not want to pay the extra cost.
Proponents of a rental property WOF do not believe that tenants can examine a rental property and determine if it is suitable for them or not. They believe that this needs to be undertaken by an official with the cost ultimately born by the tenant. An additional problem is that once installed, there will be academics and policy officials whose role will be to "improve" the WOF.
Past calls for a rental WOF have included a maximum age for rental properties so tenants could have newer rentals, specific types of cladding (such as brick) and orientation of the rental towards the sun. Most people would agree that these are not sensible or desirable requirements for rentals, but you can be sure that new requirements and costs would continue to be added over time.
For further information please contact:
Executive Officer, NZ Property Investors’ Federation
Ph: (09) 815 8645, Mobile: 021 216 1299