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16-01-2014

POLITICAL & REGULATORY REPORT for December 2013

PoliticalOver the month, there have been some noteworthy policy and regulatory developments potentially affecting New Zealand’s housing/rental property landscape. In this report, we outline these recent developments and flag other changes or developments that can be expected over the coming months.

 

TWYFORD BILL – Mandatory insulation & heating for all rentals

Under the release of The Child Poverty Monitor report, issued 9 December by Children's Commissioner, Labour MP Phil Twyford used the opportunity to restate his party’s housing policy.

 

Among other things, Twyford says the Labour Party will fix the housing crisis by building 100,000 affordable homes for first home buyers, tax property speculators [read impose a Capital Gains Tax] and set minimum standards for heating and insulation of rental properties.

 

Specifically, Twyford has draft legislation namely the “Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill” awaiting in Parliament to implement the latter policy; to make it mandatory for all rental properties to meet minimum standards for insulation and have an efficient heating source.

 

LABOUR PARTY POLICY – Ban foreigners buying residential property

During the month Labour’s Housing spokesman Phil Twyford started promoting new legislation to ban non-NZ citizens from buying residential property ie houses, flats or apartments.

 

The bill, the “Overseas Investment (Protection of New Zealand Homebuyers) Amendment Bill” still must be drawn from the Members’ ballot before it will be given a reading in Parliament.

 

Phil Twyford said his legislation was a response to the current housing market situation. He said the loan-to-value restrictions had driven first-home buyers out of the market.

 

Twyford’s draft bill sits alongside Labour’s other housing-related policies of building 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years for and their plan to introduce a Capital Gains Tax.

 

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – Cap rents, WOF & change RTA

The Human Rights Commission released (10 December) a 184 page report entitled: “Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery”. It calls for people and their human rights to be put at the heart of the recovery from natural disasters.

 

Of the 33 recommendations, the HRC makes the recommendation that there should be a warrant of fitness on all rental property and that rents should be capped after a natural disaster.

 

Also, the HRC also recommends that the Government prepare a discussion paper on whether the residential Tenancies Act should be amended so that notices for tenants be lengthened to 12 weeks notice, instead of the current 14 to 90 days and that landlords be required to provide a reason.

 

Significantly, the Housing Minister Nick Smith rejected the idea of rent freezes but could see merit in warrants of fitness standards for landlords.

 

He wanted to ensure any standards did not make it easy for landlords to simply pass on extra costs to tenants.

 

The HRC report is available at: http://www.hrc.co.nz/key-projects/canterbury-earthquake-recovery/monitoring-human-rights-in-the-canterbury-earthquake-recovery

 

WARRANT OF FITNESS – Industry consultation

On 12 December the Federation (and others) attended the Rental Property WOF Technical Advisory Group with the Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment (MBIE) and HNZ.

 

WARRANT OF FITNESS – Local trials start

The media has been reporting that field trials of a new building ''warrant of fitness'' scheme will be conducted on 125 houses in Wellington, Auckland, Tauranga, Christchurch and Dunedin.

 

The project is being initiated by the University of Otago.

 

It is suggested that the WOF checks, would take about an hour, would assess a home's warmth, dryness, mould and dampness, injury risk, sanitation, basic state-of-repair and basic living needs. See following “WOF assessment criteria” list.

 

The field test will start in January and run through to the end of February. The results will be published in March.

 

There will NOT be any WOF issued from the trials.

 

WOF assessment criteria

 

1. Is there a functional, safe stove-top and oven? (Yes/no)

2. Is there adequate space for food preparation and storage? (Yes/no)

3. Is there an adequate supply of hot and cold potable water? (Yes/no)

4. Is the hot-water at the tap 55°C (±5°C?) (Yes/no)

5. Is there a functional toilet, which does not have a cracked or broken seat, cistern or bowl? (Yes/no)

6. Is there a suitably located bath or shower in good working order? (Yes/no)

7. Are there secure or high level cupboards or shelves for storing hazardous or toxic substances out of children's reach? (Yes/no)

8. Is there a fixed form of safe and effective space heating? (Yes/no)

9. Do the bathroom, kitchen and all bedrooms have some form of ventilation to outside? (Yes/no)

10. Is the house reasonably free of visible mould, i.e. the total area of mould is less than an A4 sheet of paper? (Yes/no)

11. Are the power outlets and light switches safe and in good working order? (Yes/no)

12. Is there adequate indoor lighting? (Yes/no)

13. Does the house have adequate working smoke alarms? (Yes/no)

14. Have the windows got effective latches? (Yes/no)

15. Have high windows got security stays? (Yes/no)

16. Are there curtains or blinds in the bedrooms and living area? (Yes/no)

17. Do glass doors have safety visibility strips? (Yes/no)

18. Does the house have thermoplastic insulated cabling? (Yes/no)

19. Does the house have ceiling insulation to WOF standards? (Yes/no)

20. Does the house have underfloor insulation to WOF standards? (Yes/no)

21. Is the house weathertight with no evident leaks, or moisture stains on the walls or ceiling? (Yes/no)

22. Is a ground vapour barrier installed under the ground floor? (Yes/no)

23. Is the house in a reasonable state of repair? (Yes/no)

24. Is the storm and waste water drainage being adequately discharged? (Yes/no)

25. Is there any water ponding under the house? (Yes/no)

26. Is there adequate outdoor lighting near entrance ways? (Yes/no)

27. Does the house appear to be structurally sound? (Yes/no)

28. Are there handrails for all internal stairs and all outdoor steps that access the house, and do balconies/decks have balustrades to the current Building Code? (Yes/no)

29. Is there fire egress to the current Building Code? (Yes/no)

30. Is the address clearly labelled and identifiable? (Yes/no)

31. Are there securely locking doors? (Yes/no)

 

PARLIAMENT - In recess

The2013 parliamentary year ended with Parliament’s adjournment on 11 December.

 

Parliament will resume its normal business on 28 January 2014 and the focus will shift to the build-up to 2014 general election.

 

IN COMMITTEE – Boarding house inquiry

During the month the Social Services Select committee continued their inquiry into boarding houses.

 

To recap, the Committee’s terms of reference are to:

  • Consider the legislative and regulatory frameworks that apply to boarding houses and to
  • Determine whether the current frameworks provide adequate protection to boarding house tenants.

 

The inquiry has been running since May 2011.

 

ISSUES UNDER WATCH – and expected over the coming months.

 

  • Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill– Submissions to be called in early 2014
  • Boarding house inquiry– Social Services Select Committee ongoing inquiry into boarding houses in New Zealand
  • Energy Efficiency Conservation (Warm Healthy Rentals) Amendment Bill (to requireall rental properties to have minimum standards for warmth and insulation by 2018) - Pending ballot selection for Parliamentary debate
  • Overseas Investment (Protection of New Zealand Homebuyers) Amendment Bill– bans non-NZers buying residential property

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