Tenants can win up to $4000 in damages if landlords fail to insulate rental properties. It's led to more than 300 calls in two days from tenants seeking advice about whether their landlords are in breach of the law.
A Mangere taxi driver is upset his rental property is still not properly insulated three days after a new law came into effect.
Mohammed Rafique is looking to lodge a complaint against his landlord, while other Kiwi tenants are being urged to dob in landlords who have failed to ensure their properties are compliant.
Rafique rented a three-bedroom home on Massey Rd so he could have his children over on the weekends when he has custody, but said the lack of underfloor insulation made it freezing.
"The home is cold all the time," Rafique said.
Property owner Karan Prasad said ceiling insulation was put into the home when it was built about 10 years ago, but there wasn't enough room for workmen to put in underfloor insulation.
Homes can be exempt from the new regulations if it is too costly or hard to install insulation, such as in cases where a home sits on a concrete block. Prasad's property is a wooden home raised off the ground.
"I will ask an Auckland insulator to give me a second opinion," Prasad told the Herald.
Whistleblower tenants living in poorly insulated rentals have flooded tenancy call centres with queries since new insulation laws came into force this week.
Rental owners had until Monday to put floor and ceiling insulation into their properties - if practical - or risk paying fines up to $4000 to their tenants.
Yet three days later, many landlords appear to be still scrambling to bring their rentals up to scratch, property managers have reported.
Figures obtained by the Herald show tenants made 322 calls about insulation to Tenancy Services call centre on Monday and Tuesday, while 21 made applications to take their landlord to the Tenancy Tribunal.
Twenty-one tenants also sought help from the Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team to determine whether their rentals were properly insulated.
Landlords have had three years' warning to properly insulate their properties, but there remains debate as to how many actually met the deadline.
The rules aimed to create healthier living conditions for the 600,000 Kiwi households living in rentals across the country.
According to former Housing Minister Phil Twyford, up to 200,000 rentals did not have ceiling or underfloor insulation previously, while Ministry of Health research found 6000 children went to hospital each year with respiratory and other "housing-sensitive" conditions.
The Green Party estimated "tens of thousands" of rentals were yet to comply with the new rules and urged tenants to dob in offending landlords.
But the NZ Property Investors' Federation said 96 per cent of its landlord members had met the new standards.
Auckland's Aspire Property Management company handles about 450 rentals and managing director Mike Atkinson said a few were not yet properly insulated.
Most were homes recently converted into rentals by former owner-occupiers, who hadn't had time to insulate them before the deadline, he said.
However, some owners had waited until six months out from the deadline to arrange insulation.
These owners were subsequently caught out by a shortage of insulation workers that had made it near-impossible to get their rentals compliant by deadline, Atkinson said.
One company had told Aspire it needed 14 weeks' notice before it could visit a home to assess whether it needed insulation, while another required eight weeks' notice.
Aspire had emailed all affected tenants to keep them updated and outline what steps were being taken to fix the problem, Atkinson said.
He hoped authorities would take into account individual rental owners' situations. Most owners would be open to negotiated settlements, such as giving cash back to help with a tenant's electricity bill.
The Government's Tenancy Services said landlords would only be hit with $4000 "exemplary damages" fines in extreme cases that went to the Tenancy Tribunal.
But Tenancy Services national manager of dispute resolution Allan Galloway urged all parties to talk to each other before it went that far.
"Often issues can be resolved through a quick conversation between landlords and tenants," he said.
"If this does not resolve the issue, there are a number of dispute options available, including mediation, which are outlined on our website: www.tenancy.govt.nz."
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, however, urged authorities to stick to their guns and ensure landlords provided healthy rental homes.
"I see young children ending up in hospital suffering from respiratory conditions which could have been prevented if their homes were warm, dry and healthy," RACP president Dr Jeff Brown said.
"New Zealand research has shown that insulating houses will prevent at least one death every year, results in fewer visits to general practitioners and fewer prescription charges – we know it works and it has very real health benefits."