Landlords are being taken to court by their tenants for failing to meet the new insulation regulations introduced in July. One such case sadly involved a Bay of Plenty family whose young child suffered health issues while living in their rental property, which wasn’t insulated to new standards.
The deadline of 1 July 2019 saw new insulation regulations introduced for rental properties in New Zealand. This deadline was well publicised and the regulation changes (covered here in our blog) form part of the wider-spanning Healthy Homes Guarantee Act, which seeks to ensure NZ’s 600,000 rental homes are warm, dry and well ventilated.
Landlords had years of notice leading up to the deadline and subsidies were made available, yet there are currently dozens of related claims going through the courts.
The Gamman family had been living in a cold and damp Paengaroa home with insufficient insulation for more than three years when the deadline came and went. A mother of two young children, Krystal Gamman initially flagged the lack of insulation with her property manager a year ago, offering to use her community services card to reduce costs. The Gamman’s landlord failed to rectify the insulation issues.
The family’s youngest child had previously been hospitalised with potentially related respiratory issues and was suffering suspected viral pneumonia this winter. An assessment of the property by an insulation expert showed the ceiling insulation wasn’t up to code and that there was no underfloor insulation. The Gammans told the Herald taking their landlord to the Tenancy Tribunal was a hard decision because their relationship had historically been a good one.
Two weeks after the insulation regulation deadline, the Gammans put their children’s health first and took the landlord to court. The Tribunal ruled in favour of the tenants, criticising the landlord for ignoring their obligations and only completing an insulation assessment two months out from the deadline. The ruling made on 6 August ordered the landlord to pay Krystal and James Gamman $1,500 in damages and to install adequate ceiling and underfloor insulation by 13 August.
New Zealand landlords failing to meet the new insulation standards face fines of up to $4,000. This is payable to the tenant, and based on the first two rulings released, the Tenancy Tribunal looks to be ensuring that the correct insulation is installed post haste and that any costs to tenants are suitably compensated by the landlord.
Landlords have had three years to prepare for the law changes, so the Tribunal is unlikely to offer any offenders a grace period. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is urging tenants to discuss any issues with their landlord before applying to the Tenancy Tribunal. The MBIE estimated 100,000 rentals were uninsulated when the changes came into effect at the start of July – if correct, it’s likely the Tribunal is going to quickly become clogged with this type of dispute.
If you’re in doubt about whether or not your rental property has adequate insulation, feel free to get in touch and chat to us about how to meet your legal obligations as a landlord, or what your rights are as a tenant.