• Why the Rental Warrant of Fitness will not work in its current format

  • UK style rating is the way forward for healthy houses

First of all, let me start by stating that this is not an article beating up the people who have designed and implemented the Rental Warrant of Fitness. The intentions of these people are good and they are thinking of the most vulnerable of citizens within New Zealand. I also genuinely applaud the Wellington City Council for trying to get this off the ground. The current Mayor Justin Lester campaigned in the mayoral elections stating that if he was elected he would implement the Rental Warrant of Fitness. He is as good as his word and he should be commended.

However, the current guidelines for the Rental Warrant of Fitness are seriously flawed and in my opinion, are bordering on ‘Nanny State’. This was a criticism of the previous Labour Government with policies around new standards for light bulbs and restrictions around hot showers.

Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman and Wellington’s Mayor, Justin Lester discuss the newly launched Rental Warrant of Fitness.

The Rental Warrant of Fitness (WoF) is the brainchild of the University of Otago and in particular Prof. Philippa Howden-Chapman and Dr. Julie Bennett who have spent nearly two decades researching and designing the WoF. The WoF was launched by Wellington City Council in late August with much fanfare however the scheme recently hit the headlines for the wrong reasons when it was revealed that only two landlords had taken up the voluntary scheme and one of them had complained about it in the media.

Read about landlords feedback in media

The criticism came from landlord Joseph Williams who stated that his tidy clean and relatively new rental property in Johnsonville had failed, even though it passed a basic council inspection in 2011. He also went on to state that the report was poorly written and full of spelling errors however these are minor issues that should be easy to rectify. Currently, the Sustainability Trust carry out the WoF inspections and charge $250.

The WoF inspection has 29 criteria and 63 questions that an inspector will assess. The assessment covers insulation, heating, ventilation, structural stability, sanitation and hazard identification. Where the main issues lie is that it is a simple Pass or Fail with a six-month window to get the property up to scratch if it fails the first time around. The idea is that landlords can promote the property as WoF passed to prospective tenants when advertising it.

In principle, it seems like a good idea but when you take a closer look it is seriously flawed.

I first came across the WoF when I was involved in the REINZ Property Management committee about 4 years ago. Nick Smith was the National Party Housing Minister and he sent out a proposal seeking feedback on the WoF. As a committee, we were asked to critique it and at the time I felt it went too far, measuring cupboards, having window strips on and having security stays on windows more than 2 metres off the ground. My opinion hasn’t changed. In the end, the National Party threw it out stating it would add more cost onto landlords and subsequently it would increase rents.

I use my own house as an example. We recently renovated our own home and have gone to huge lengths to ensure the property is warm and dry. We have done the following work.

  • Insulation installed in the ceiling, most of the walls and underfloor
  • Installed double glazing windows throughout the property
  • Had central heating installed throughout the property
  • Installed a Showerdome
  • Installed a ventilation system
  • Had a polythene sheet installed on the ground under the property

You would struggle to find a warmer, healthier home in Wellington. However, our house would fail the WoF because we do not have window strips and we have no intention of installing them.

There are other factors seriously wrong with the WoF as well……….