Exceptions for installing insulation in rental properties

Posted 31 Jul 2017

Exceptions for installing insulation in rental properties

20 July 2017

Recent changes to the Residential Tenancies Act require insulation to be installed in income-related rent tenancies from July 2016 and all other tenancies by July 2019.

As New Zealand has many types of houses, the law allows for some exceptions to the insulation requirements, including where it is not ‘reasonably practicable’ to install insulation in certain types of property. These exceptions are not loopholes – they must be legally justifiable.

Building design exceptions

Due to the design or construction constraints of some property types, it is sometimes either not physically possible to insulate or would require major renovations to do so.

Examples of types of properties that would meet exception criteria would be apartments where there is a habitable space above and below the apartment, houses constructed on concrete slabs where it is not feasible to install underfloor insulation, and homes with skillion roofs where there is no ceiling in place to install insulation above.

Access exceptions – what’s acceptable and what’s not

In many properties the most common way to access the ceiling space or underfloor to retrofit insulation would be through an existing trapdoor to the ceiling or an external door to crawl under the house.
Retrofitting insulation is not considered ‘reasonably practicable’ when an experienced professional insulation installer;

  • cannot access the location to install insulation without removing any cladding or lining, carrying out other substantial building work, or causing substantial damage to the property. 
  • cannot install insulation without creating health or safety risks to people, that are greater than the level of risk normally acceptable when insulation is being installed.

Where access to the ceiling or underfloor can be achieved by carrying out minor work (eg: temporarily removing base boards from the exterior of the property to access the underfloor), the landlord is expected to do so. The need for building work to be undertaken in order for insulation to be installed by an experienced professional does not satisfy criteria for an exception, unless substantial building work would be required, or substantial damage would be caused to the property. Any building work carried out must comply with the building code.

If the reason a property was excepted from complying with insulation requirements changes – for example a new roof is installed that allows room for insulation – then a landlord must ensure that insulation is installed as soon as is reasonably practicable.

If a landlord is in any doubt whether insulation can be installed in their rental property, they should consult an experienced professional insulation installer and, if needed, a builder. If the experienced professional says insulating some areas is not reasonably practicable or not possible, the landlord should ask for written confirmation of the reasons to include in tenancy agreements. It is not adequate for a landlord to simply claim that ‘insulation is not reasonably practicable’. Failure to comply with insulation obligations under the new legislation could attract a penalty of $4000 for income-related rent landlords. For all other landlords this penalty applies from July 2019.

Other exceptions to insulation requirements

Other situations in which landlords may be excepted from the insulation requirements are:

  • Where within 12 months of the start of a tenancy, the landlord intends to demolish or substantially rebuild all or part of the property. In this case the landlord must, if requested, provide evidence of having applied for the necessary resource consent and/or building consent for the redevelopment or building work.
  • Where a property is purchased from and immediately rented back to the former owner-occupier – in which case a 12 month exception will apply from the date of purchase.
  • If a property does not meet the new insulation requirements, but a landlord can provide evidence that when insulation was originally installed it did comply with particular insulation requirements (such as the specifications outlined in the building consent or an Acceptable Solution or Verification Method) the property is excluded from new requirements, provided the insulation is in reasonable condition.

New tenancy agreements must have an insulation statement

Although landlords still have time to install insulation before the July 2019 deadline, they must now include an insulation statement in all new tenancy agreements stating if the home is insulated, where the insulation is, and what type and what condition it is in. This helps potential tenants to make an informed decision about the property they choose to live in.

Tenants that want to find out more about insulation in their home should talk to their landlord. We encourage landlords to take action sooner rather than later, as demand for insulation services is expected to increase the closer we get to the July 2019 deadline.

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