What landlords need to know about insulation laws

Matt Wineera, AREINZ
Matt Wineera, AREINZ
Published on May 20, 2019

If you’re a landlord in New Zealand wanting to avoid a $4,000 fine, it’s time to make sure your rental property meets the insulation regulations. 

What all landlords 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.
  • Failing to meet the insulation regulations is considered an unlawful act.
  • You could face a penalty of up to $4,000.
  • All new tenancy agreements must include an insulation statement.
  • Wall insulation is not compulsory.

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 the time to check.  

Talk to your property manager about the insulation regulations, as they’ll be very familiar with these, and able to organise the checks and any work that’s required to ensure the property is compliant. If you already know your insulation needs replacing and need more information on how to do this, visit your local Bunnings store or read more here

How can I tell if my insulation meets the regulations?

First thing’s first – is the house insulated at all? Landlords (or property managers) can check this by physically looking in the property’s ceiling cavity and underfloor area, hiring a professional to do an assessment, or by checking the council building file.

  • If there’s no insulation at all, you’ll need to install insulation that complies with the regulations. 
  • If the place is insulated, this should be at least 70mm thick. 
  • If the insulation is less than 70mm thick, you’ll need to top it up with additional insulation in order to comply with the regulations that come into force on 1 July 2019. 

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 you’re installing new or top-up insulation, it’s a good idea to aim for 120mm in thickness, in order to future-proof the home and meet the 2021 Healthy Homes Standards.

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 damage. If the foil is damaged, it needs to be replaced with another insulation product. Remember, there’s a risk of electrocution with foil, so turn the power off before touching it or hire a professional. 

If you’re unsure about the thickness or state of the home’s insulation, it’s a good idea to talk to a professional insulation installer, or ask your property manager for advice.

Insulation

What does “reasonably practicable to install” mean? Is my rental home exempt?

The design or construction constraints of some properties mean it’s not reasonably practicable to install insulation, making these homes exempt from the rules. 

According to Tenancy Services, examples of the types of properties that would meet the exception criteria are:

  • Apartments where there is a habitable space above and below the apartment.
  • Houses constructed on concrete slabs where it is not feasible to install underfloor insulation.
  • Houses with skillion roofs where there is no ceiling in place to install insulation above.

There are also some access exemptions, which is when an experienced professional insulation installer can’t access the location to install insulation without:

  • removing any cladding or lining.
  • carrying out other substantial building work.
  • 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 you’ve still got to install insulation.

If your rental property ticks one of these exemption boxes, it’s important to keep this in mind when planning any future work to the home. If a change is made that allows insulation to be fitted, then the landlord must do so as soon as reasonably practicable. For example, if the home is exempt because it has a skillion roof, and then a new roof is installed down the line, you’ll be expected to fit insulation. 

If you think your place qualifies for an exemption, talk to an experienced professional insulation installer and, if needed, a builder. Ask for written confirmation that outlines the reasons the home is exempt, and include this in future tenancy agreements for tenants to be aware of and understand. 

If you plan 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. The 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 if I’m not compliant by 1 July 2019?

If you fail to meet the regulations by the deadline, you’ll be in breach of the Residential Tenancies Act. You’ll face a penalty of up to $4,000, which is usually paid to the tenant. If you own more than one rental property, you may face separate damages for each home that doesn’t comply. 

Preparing for the Healthy Homes Standards

The Healthy Homes Standards will include additional requirements for insulation, which will take effect from 1 July 2021. 

According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, the Healthy Homes Standards aim to make a significant change to the quality of Kiwi rental homes. The standards will cover heating, insulation and ventilation, as well as moisture ingress, drainage and draught stopping.

It’s a good idea for landlords to read up on these new standards before planning any work to a rental property, in order to future-proof the home and be sure that any work you do today will help you meet these new standards in 2021. 

Where can I go for more information?

Visit your local Bunnings. Bunnings have a range of ceiling, wall and underfloor insulation and can help you organise delivery and installation. Find out more here

Article by Gracie Allum – realestate.co.nz

Do you have a question on the local Real Estate market, or should you spend money on a renovation of your home before you sell, just call Matt Wineera on 0274 951 536 who is always on hand to answer your query.

Work with Matt Wineera who lists and sells in the Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and Papamoa areas.

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