A New Approach

A New Approach for Property Management – Rental Warrant Of Fitness

What is the fact?

Based on Tenancy Services two of Landlord’s Key Responsibilities are:

  • Provide and maintain the premises in a reasonable condition
  • Comply with all building, health and safety standards that apply to the premises

QUESTION – What is the measure to guarantee that landlords or property managements are:

  • Providing and maintaining the premises in a reasonable condition?
  • Complying with all building, health and safety standards that apply to the premises?

In fact, what is “reasonable condition” and what are “health and safety standards” that apply to the premises?

A Rental Warrant of Fitness provides the measurement and assurance that the premises meets these responsibilites.

Is defining housing quality new to New Zealand?

Concern about housing quality for the New Zealand government emerged in the early 20th century. Infectious disease epidemics such as the great Spanish Flu in 1918/19 underlined the prominence link of housing to health. The concern led to authorisation of local authorities to carry out surveys based on housing quality and crowding on behalf of the central government in 1935.

By March 1939, housing surveys had been carried out in 115 of the 119 local areas. The results covered 225,363 dwellings, where 901,353 people lived (Taylor, 1986). Of buildings used as dwellings, 31,663 were classed as unsatisfactory but repairable. 6,827 were totally unsatisfactory. There were 9,835 overcrowded dwellings; with 14,761 surplus people in them. These surveys remain the only comprehensive housing surveys ever carried out in New Zealand. However, regulations on housing quality based on this housing survey just came up after World War II.

There are no comprehensive housing surveys since 1930s even thoughmany studies have underlined the issue of poor housing quality in NZ. Their main focus indicators were on cold and energy use in NZ houses such as average indoor temperature. In winter one third of southern houses measured at 16°C or less while the recommended temperature by the World Health Organization is 18°C and if there are vulnerable dwellers at home like babies the recommended temperature is 21° C.

In comparison to owner-occupied houses rental houses were reported to be in worse living condition. Based on BRANZ 2010 survey, it is about twice as likely that an owner-occupied home to be in a good condition than rented houses.

Is this fact based on a correlation between housing quality and public health and economy impact?

There are several international and national papers researched on the link between dwelling quality and dwellers health providing significant evidence for it. As an example poor respiratory health related to damp housing is evidenced in many studies.

The result of poor health because of damp housing may end to increased hospital admission and more absences form schools and work, with implications for the economy. In other words, poor housing has economic as well as health impact.

Clark (2009) notes that damp housing affects physical health because it has the potential to increase dust mites and moulds, both of which are allergenic.

As another example, the New Zealand Productivity Commission (2011) noted the “leaky homes crisis has been estimated at costing $11.3 billion cost (2008 dollars)”. Housing is affected by the structure and maintenance of the building (eg leaking roofs) and by the way people live in a dwelling.

What is the most recent news?

Questions regarding dwelling quality is significantly considered in the NZ Census 2018. Government statistician Liz MacPherson says that it’s the first time since 2001 new questions have been added.

“Census topics need to reflect the changing information needs of New Zealand, and be balanced with the ability to compare data over time. I have decided to include new topics to help gather robust, independent information that can inform decision-making,” MacPherson said.

It covers private dwellings (eg, separate houses, units joined to others, private dwellings in motor camps, and improvised dwellings such as garages) and non-private dwellings (eg, boarding houses, and residential care for older people). It also provides information on the number of storeys.

Could the result of Census 2018 efficiently promote Rental Warrant of Fitness?

The new housing data will be used to help address housing quality issues and measure housing deficiency across the country. It will also feed into the legislative requirements of councils, and help to inform public health action and target resources (eg, where poor-quality housing is linked to asthma and rheumatic fever).

Keeping in mind prevention is always better than cure, there is hope that by making the Rental Warrant of Fitness compulsory it will help improve housing quality to a healthy level. This will improve public health and better economy for New Zealand.

Article By Roya Gorjifard

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