Tenants can now claim $4000 in damages if they are living in uninsulated rentals, but how do they find out whether their home meets new standards?

While the new insulation standards came into force today, they do have a number of exceptions that can make it confusing for a tenant.

And - despite landlords having had three years to bring their rental properties up to scratch - there is debate as to how many have met the deadline.

The Green Party estimated there could "tens of thousands" of rentals not yet properly insulated, while the NZ Property Investors' Federation said 96 per cent of its landlord members have met the new standards.

Advertisement

The first place for a tenant to check is their tenancy agreement, according to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment's Tenancy Services website.

Kiwi rental homes must have insulation in the ceiling and under the floor. However, they are not required to have wall insulation. Photo / Michael Craig
Kiwi rental homes must have insulation in the ceiling and under the floor. However, they are not required to have wall insulation. Photo / Michael Craig

Tenancy agreement

Every tenant signing a new tenancy agreement since 2016 should also have been given an Insulation statement, signed by the landlord.

The law requires landlords to complete this form and if they provide misleading or false information they could be fined $500.

The statement states whether there is insulation in the rental home, where it is, what type and what condition it is in.

For instance, the form includes questions about whether there is ceiling and underfloor insulation and whether this insulation is in all the rooms or just some.

The form also asks the landlord to state whether the insulation meets minimum standards under the law.

What are the new insulation standards?

To meet the standards, rentals should have ceiling and underfloor insulation that is at least 70mm thick.

In cases where the insulation was not 70mm thick, landlords should have already topped this up by today.

The insulation should also be in a reasonable condition, meaning it should cover the entire ceiling or underfloor area and should not be wet or damp.

If foil insulation has been used under the floor, this is okay so long as it is in good condition.

However, damaged foil insulation must be replaced with another type of insulation as repairing it is banned by law.

Rentals are also not required to have insulation in the walls.

Exemptions

There are a number of exemptions, however. This includes rented apartments where people are living in flats above and below.

Homes may also be exempt if they sit on a concrete base or have a skillion roof because it is not possible to install insulation without a major renovation.

Homes where a building or insulation expert deems it too hard to access the ceiling or floor to install insulation may also be exempt.

Rentals where a landlord plans to demolish or undertake a major rebuild within 12 months are also exempt.

Landlords must include details of any such exemptions in their insulation statements.

In cases, where an expert said it was not "reasonably practicable" to install insulation, the landlord must get written confirmation and include this in the insulation statement.

Where a landlord plans to redevelop or demolish a rental within 12 months, the tenant can request proof in the form of a building or resource consent.

What if there are no valid exemptions and your rental isn't insulated?

If it is not insulated and there are no valid exemptions, the landlord will face a penalty of up to $4000 that is usually paid to the tenant.

What tenants need to know

• All rental homes must be fitted with ceiling and underfloor insulation where "reasonably practicable" by today.

• There are some exemptions. This includes apartments that have flats above and below.

• Wall insulation is also not compulsory.

• Landlords signing tenancy agreements with tenants must also provide an insulation statement.

• Tenants can claim damages up to $4000 from landlords who fail to meet the new insulation standards.