18 Oct 2013

Warrant of fitness programme for rentals

3:46 pm on 18 October 2013

A new warrant of fitness system has been developed to assess the condition of rental housing, and its creators say they want to roll it out in a pilot scheme.

However, a group representing property investors says the warrant is patronising and it's not needed.

Housing Minister Nick Smith has asked officials to investigate such as system, which is intended to be trialled on Housing New Zealand properties by early 2014.

An image of houses among trees on a hill.

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The Housing and Health Research Programme and the Green Building Council have developed their own housing warrant of fitness with 24 elements to it following years of research and the testing of 5000 dwellings.

The programme's director, Philippa Howden-Chapman, says the warrant involves an inspection which costs landlords about $300 and applies minimum standards to health, safety and energy efficiency.

"There should be an adequate supply of hot and cold potable water. There has to be a functional toilet in good working order and repair. That there should be either a shower or a bath. There should be a basic insulation in the ceiling, under the floor and draft stopping."

She says initially, it would be brought in on volunteer basis and subsequently become mandatory. The inspection would take 30 to 40 minutes and inform the person in the house if there us anything that is extremely urgent that needs attending to.

Ms Howden-Chapman the system has support from councils in major cities, starting in Dunedin and Wellington, where landlords would face a financial penalty if they did not fix problems.

But the president of the Property Investors Association, Andrew King, says the warrant isn't needed.

"Personally, I think it's kind of patronising towards the tenant. To think that you have to pay someone, an expert, to come in and tell you whether you've got a toilet and hot and cold water running. It just isn't necessary. Where we see the best benefit coming is in insulation and heating."

Call for drug test to be part of plan

A methamphetamine detection company is calling for the warrant of fitness system to include a test for traces of chemicals used to make the drug that's also known as "P".

A director of Methsolutions, Miles Stratford, which tests for and cleans up former P-labs, says if the warrant of fitness is considering basic health and safety issues, a P test should be done.

"Contamination from meth use, particularly from meth manufacture presents profound risks to people's health. So yes, it should be part of a warrant of fitness programme. I think there'd be multiple organisations who would need to be involved to make sure a good service was delivered."

Mr Stratford says about 40% of the houses his company tests require detailed testing and clean up.