Two landlords have been ordered to pay damages to 32 tenants after breaking new insulation rules.
Christchurch landlords Ying Shi and Rong Zhang were taken to the Tenancy Tribunal in relation to 81 cases where tenants claimed they hadn't included insulation details in tenancy agreements or had committed other breaches.
The case was taken to the tribunal by the Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment (MBIE) on behalf of the tenants and resulted in a total of $1600 being paid out to 32 of the tenants following mediation. The remaining cases were withdrawn.
The landlords are among more than 200 landlords who have been referred to the Tenancy Tribunal since insulation law changes came into affect on July 1.
The new law required all rental properties to be insulated where possible, and for tenancy agreements to include a signed insulation statement that discloses the level of insulation at the property.
The requirement was put in place three years ago under the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2016, giving landlords ample time to comply - as well as offering government grants to lessen their costs.
However, since the July cut-off, thousands of tenants have sought advice, with hundreds of those subsequently taking their landlords to court.
Tenants can seek up to $4000 in compensation from their landlords if their homes are not properly insulated.
Figures provided by MBIE show the Tenancy Services Centre received a total of 2057 calls seeking advice on insulation from July 1 to September 13.
Of those, 130 were being assessed by the Tenancy Compliance & Investigations Team, and 228 were Tenancy Tribunal applications claiming a landlord breach in relation to insulation.
While the Ministry of Justice could not provide figures on how many complaints had ended up at the Tenancy Tribunal, there have been 110 online decisions related to insulation since July 1.
One of those was Tauranga landlord Kaimai Real Estate, trading as First National, who was ordered to install underfloor and ceiling insulation in a Paengaroa flat by August 13, and pay its tenants Krystal and James Gamman $1500 in damages.
The Gammans took their property manager to the Tenancy Tribunal after he failed to install insulation in the house they had been living in with their two young children for more than three years.
Krystal Gamman first raised the issue around a lack of insulation with the property manager a year ago and even offered to use her community card to reduce the cost, the documents showed.
Their youngest child was hospitalised with respiratory issues two years ago and had pneumonia this winter.
The family complained the 1950s timber weatherboard cottage was cold in winter and there was a lot of condensation around the windows despite their best efforts to ventilate. The Gammans' request was ignored, the tribunal decision said.
A recent assessment of the property by an insulation expert revealed the cottage did not have the correct insulation - the ceiling insulation was insufficient and there was no underfloor insulation.
The Tenancy Tribunal was critical of the landlord waiting until two months prior to the deadline to carry out an assessment and said there was a strong public interest in deterring a landlord from ignoring its obligations.
"The Gammans' interests have not been served as they have been concerned about dampness in the house with young children, one of whom was hospitalised last year with respiratory issues, and is now in winter with suspected pneumonia," the order said.
A Napier couple were also fined for not installing insulation before the July 1 deadline.
Landlords Ruth and Teri Flanagan were told several times by property managing company Oxygen that they were obliged to have ceiling insulation installed but they did nothing as "they believed it was already insulated", the Tenancy Tribunal heard.
As the July 1 deadline approached Oxygen tried to contact the Flanagans for authorisation to insulate, but after getting no answer they organised the work themselves.
Insulation was installed on July 3 - three days after the deadline - but the law was still broken, the tribunal found.
"I consider it extremely doubtful that insulation would have been installed at all without the unilateral action of Oxygen to get the issue addressed," adjudicator K Milne said, in awarding the tenant John Ross $1300 in exemplary damages.
While landlords get used to insulation regulations, new healthy homes standards for heating, ventilation, draught stopping, moisture ingress and drainage in rental properties will also be enforced from July 1, 2021.
• All rental properties must have one or more fixed heaters, which can directly heat the main living room to at least 18C and can maintain this temperature all year round.
• Rental properties must have at least one door or window (including skylights) that opens to the outside in all bedrooms, dining rooms, living rooms, lounges and kitchens.
• Rental properties must have efficient drainage for the removal of storm water, surface water and ground water, including an appropriate outfall.
• Landlords must block any unreasonable gaps and holes in walls, ceilings, windows, floors and doors that cause noticeable draughts. Open fireplaces must be blocked unless the tenant and landlord agree otherwise.