What tenants need to know about insulation laws

If you’re renting a home in New Zealand the home must be insulated by 1 July 2019, or your landlord can be fined.  

If you’re not sure whether your rental property is insulated, or you’re not positive that the insulation is up to scratch, now is a good time to ask your landlord or property manager.   

What tenants need to know:

  • Insulation is compulsory in all Kiwi rental homes from 1 July 2019.
  • Ceiling and underfloor insulation must be installed, where reasonably practicable.
  • All new tenancy agreements must include an insulation statement.
  • Failing to meet the insulation regulations is considered an unlawful act.
  • Your landlord could face a penalty of up to $4,000.
  • Wall insulation is not compulsory.

I think my rental home has insulation - how can I tell if it meets the regulations?

Since 2016, all new tenancy agreements have been required to come with an insulation statement. This will tell you whether the house was insulated at the time, what sort of insulation it has and what state it’s in. If you can’t find the insulation statement, or you weren’t given one, talk to your landlord or property manager.

The ceiling and underfloor should be insulated, and this needs to be at least 70mm thick to comply. If the house has insulation, but it’s not thick enough, the landlord needs to top this up before the 1 July 2019 deadline.

If the insulation is 70mm or thicker, you’re good to go, assuming the insulation remains in reasonable condition. This means there are no gaps or spots missing (except around lights and other heat sources), and no defects, such as insulation that is wet or damp.

If the house’s underfloor insulation is foil insulation, this is okay, as long as the top surface is still shiny and there are no rips, gaps or other damage. If the foil is damaged, it needs to be replaced with another insulation product – repairing foil insulation is banned. There’s a risk of electrocution with foil, so it’s best not to touch it (especially if it’s damaged) – call your landlord or property manager instead. 

Insulation

My rental home doesn’t have any insulation at all – what do I do?

If the place you’re renting isn’t insulated, ask your landlord or property manager about their plans to fix this before 1 July 2019.

My landlord says my rental property is exempt from the insulation rules? Is this true?

Some homes are exempt from the rules, where it isn’t reasonably practicable to install insulation. These exemptions include if you’re renting an apartment with people living above and below you, if the rental home sits on a concrete slab so there’s no reasonable way to install underfloor insulation, or if the place has a skillion roof with no ceiling space for insulation to go.

Other exemptions include an access exemption, which is when an experienced professional insulation installer can’t access the location to install insulation without removing cladding or lining, carrying out substantial building work or causing substantial damage to the house.

If the insulation can be installed with only some minor work required, like temporarily removing baseboards from the exterior of the property to access the underfloor, then the landlord has still got to install insulation.

If your landlord says the property is exempt, you can ask them for written confirmation from an insulation installer or builder, which outlines the reasons the home is exempt.

If your landlord plans to demolish or substantially rebuild all or part of the house within 12 months of the start of a tenancy, the property can also be exempt. Your landlord must be able to provide evidence of having applied for the necessary resource consent and/or building consent for the redevelopment or building work.

What happens if my landlord is not compliant by 1 July 2019?

If your landlord fails to meet the regulations by the deadline, they’ll be in breach of the Residential Tenancies Act. The landlord will face a penalty of up to $4,000, which is usually paid to the tenant.

If they own more than one rental house, they may face separate damages for each home that doesn’t comply. After all this, they’ll still be required to make the necessary changes to the property in order to meet the insulation regulations, if they want to keep renting the place out.

If you have spoken to your landlord or property manager and they still haven’t sorted the insulation by July, report them to Tenancy Services. Call 0800 TENANCY or visit tenancy.govt.nz.

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