There are currently two WOF systems being developed. One is a voluntary scheme currently being trialled by five Local Authorities around the country, the other is being developed for Housing NZ properties.
Government has put together a Technical Advisory Group to develop the WOF for HNZ properties and I am part of that group representing private rental property owners. The reason for my participation is because of the potential for a WOF to be extended to the private sector, a very worrying thought.
All members of the Governments Technical Advisory Group have signed confidentiality agreements, so I am not able to provide you with any information at this stage. However the Local Councils WOF trial is now underway and we can look at what it covers. A copy is available at ????????
The WOF is intended to test whether the rental property meets basic standards around warm, dryness, mould and dampness, injury risk, sanitation, state of repair and basic living needs.
The WOF is broken down into 8 sections, which are:
There are some general aspects that apply to all areas, such as condition of wall and ceiling linings plus floor; presence of mould; working artificial lights, visibly safe power outlets and light switches.
The wet areas (kitchen, laundry, bathroom and toilet)require effective ventilation to the outside and sound wastewater drainage. Kitchens need to have a functioning stove and oven; adequate food preparation and storage; a water supply with the hot water at 55áµ’C ±5áµ’C temperature; and child safe storage. Bathrooms need to have an operating toilet, plus bath or shower.
Living areas and bedrooms need to have opening secure windows with safety latches if over 2 meters off the ground, plus curtains or drapes. Living areas need to have a fixed form of safe and effective heating and bedrooms must have a working smoke alarm within 3 meters of the door.
The entrance needs to be clearly labelled, have a securely locking door and a working entrance light.
The ceiling needs to have 120mm thick insulation with no gaps tucks or folds; no dampness; clear from lights, ducts and the roof; with thermoplastic insulated cabling.
Under floor areas must have insulation; a ground vapour barrier, be dry with no ponding.
Under general condition, the property must be generally sound with no cracks or holes in the roof, cladding or windows; functioning spouting; visibility strips on glass doors; handrails and balustrades to code; plus paths, decks and surfaces non-slippery and free from moss.
Many of these requirements are obvious, such as the presence of a toilet, and it is extremely unlikely that any rental property would not comply. In fact they are so obvious that it is patronising to the tenants to say that a trained inspector needs to be paid to ensure they are part of the rental property.
Other requirements are not so obvious, but are inexpensive and easy to achieve and could save a life, such as smoke alarms close to bedrooms.
Some requirements, such as the 120mm level of insulation is over-the-top as a minimum requirement and will add considerably to the rental price with minimal extra benefit to the tenant.
The stipulation that there be two methods of egress (exits from the property) may rule some properties un-rentable. Some apartments may not comply with this requirement and are unable to be modified to comply.
While the NZPIF approves of good standards for rental properties in NZ, a pass/fail WOF system appears to be an expensive shotgun approach to help improve the life's of some New Zealanders. The potential to have extra requirements added over time, such as orientation towards the sun, minimum age and minimum bedroom sizes, could see some properties deemed unacceptable for tenants, but OK for owner occupiers.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that a WOF system will lead to higher rents and make it even harder for many tenants to afford to heat their homes. The NZPIF is working hard to ensure that any new regulations target those tenants in need, correctly address their problems and actually fix them.