Insulation standards and why landlords need to meet them

Not all New Zealand landlords meet the new insulation standards, but recent tenant wins show why compliance is so important.

In 2015, the Government updated the requirements set out in the Residential Tenancies Act. These changes required NZ rentals to meet a new standard of insulation, including having the ceiling and underfloor done. They also required landlords to attach an insulation statement to all new tenancy agreements. The deadline for this was July 1, 2019.

To read all of the new requirements, see here.

Although this deadline has passed, some landlords have still not sorted insulation and tenants are starting to take them to the Tenancy Tribunal. Not only is this leaving a stain on their record but landlords are also having to pay big bucks for it. Here are some of the recent tenant wins over insulation that show why it is important to have yours sorted.

Garea pays $300 for failure to have a statement

Just over a month after the July 1st deadline had been reached, Belinda King and Jason Lawrence took their landlord Andrea Garea to the Tenancy Tribunal. Although their application involved other breaches of the RTA, one failure to include an insulation statement also stung the landlord.

Compensation of $300 was payable to the tenants for not having this statement, with the Judge ruling that:

  • The signed statement was legally necessary
  • They could have charged the landlord $500 for this breach
  • No explanation was given for its absence which made them think it was intentional

Even if Garea’s property had met the insulation standards, the absence of a statement was enough to warrant a fine. This is because it is a legal requirement to let your tenants know about the insulation and:

  • Whether or not it is there
  • Where in the house it is
  • What condition it is in

To read the full ruling on the King & Lawrence vs Garea case, see here.

Tauranga tenants awarded $1,500 for insufficient insulation

Exactly a day after the Garea case, two Tauranga tenants had a Tribunal hearing about their insulation and won.

Krystal and James Gamman took Kaimai Real Estate Ltd to court after a year of asking them to ensure it meets the new standards. This request came after living in the home with their children for a few winters, and recognising that the lack of insulation made the home cold and damp.

After an assessment of their house by an expert, the couple had their claims confirmed. The expert established that:

  • There was insufficient insulation in the ceiling
  • There was no insulation under the floors

This meant the landlord had breached the new insulation requirements and the Judge ordered them to pay $1500 to the tenants. They were also ordered to have the property correctly insulated within a reasonable time frame.

To read the full ruling on the Gamman vs Kaimai Real Estate Ltd case, see here.

Over $2000 paid to tenants after two breaches of the new insulation rules

Matthew James Smith took his landlord to the Tribunal after inadequate insulation led to bigger problems with his house. These problems included:

  • Dampness
  • Leaks
  • Mould

All of these problems were covered by a separate compensation fee of $1560.

Although the house was correctly insulated in August 2019, the Judge ruled that the landlord needed to legally have this completed by the July 1st deadline. This, plus the absence of an insulation statement meant there were two breaches of the new standards by the landlord. Approximately $2000 was awarded for having no insulation after July 1st, and $300 was awarded for having no insulation statement on the lease.

To read the full ruling on the Matthew Smith vs Tremain Northern Ltd case, see here.

Why you need to meet new standards

Insulation is important. Not just because it is legally required but because these rules were made for a reason.

These sets of laws are apart of the new healthy homes standards which aim to increase the quality of rentals in New Zealand. Not only is black mold and dampness a result of poor insulation, but also freezing cold homes. A sad statistic attributes 1600 deaths per year to NZ’s cold rentals. The people who are most vulnerable being children and the elderly.

This survey by Statistics New Zealand also found that the average temperature of New Zealand rental living rooms during Winter was 17.8°c. This means that half of all properties tested were below the World Health Organisation’s recommended minimum of 18°c.

Insulating your property is not only a great way to lift the temperature in your rental and avoid being a part of the statistic above, but it will also save you and your tenants money in the long run.

As shown in the cases above, it is expensive to neglect insulation in your rental and it is expensive to not comply with the new requirements. They are a legal standard that will:

  • Save you from facing penalties
  • Increase the value and quality of your home
  • Save your tenants’ money on the electric and heating bills each month

It really is a win, win, win situation.

What are the new required standards?

The new requirements expect landlords to have insulation in the ceiling and under their floors -where possible.

From 2021, this ceiling insulation must be 120mm thick, but for now, if it already exists it can be 70mm thick.

More about these standards can be found in this NewsHub article.

How to know if your property meets the new requirements

If you are unsure whether your rental meets the new insulation requirements it is important to check. You can do this by hiring a professional or by doing it yourself, however, the second option could mean an incorrect assessment if you aren’t confident in doing this.

If you do it yourself, we recommend reading the Insulation requirements guide by Tenancy Services.

This should have all of the information you need to know such as:

  • The thickness you should measure for
  • Where it should be
  • The condition the insulation should be in

Another way of knowing whether your insulation is adequate is to ask an expert. We definitely recommend this option as the stakes for getting this wrong are high. The expert will conduct a thorough analysis and let you know exactly how it stacks up to the legal requirements. This is important as insulation will vary from location to location, and the thickness/quality isn’t always something you can tell from looking.

All you need to do is Google ‘insulation expert’ and you should easily find someone in your area.

Can we install foil insulation?

Installing or repairing foil insulation is now banned. This is due to the material posing serious risks and safety concerns as it can conduct electricity and cause shocks.

Although the foil ban has been in place since July 2016, some homes may still have it. In this case, if you do find foil when checking your rental we advise that you turn off the main power at your property before inspecting it.

What does the foil ban mean?

This ban on foil insulation means:

  • any new insulation installed cannot be foil
  • any old insulation that is foil must be replaced with non-foil if it is not in reasonable condition.