The recent passing of the Healthy Homes Bill has put the idea of a warrant of fitness (WOF) for rental housing back on the minds of tenants and landlords alike. While it is unclear whether or not compulsory rental WOFs will come into effect anytime soon, there’s no denying that they have the potential to shake up the rental market—perhaps for the better.
Raising the bar for rentals in New Zealand
In 2013, the University of Otago ran a rental WOF trial with 144 homes across New Zealand. Only 8 passed—just 6 per cent. While the 144 homes sampled are a drop in the ocean to the nation’s 450,000 households who rent, it does indicate a worrying trend: an alarming number of New Zealand rental properties are sub-standard.
In an effort to lift the rental standards in our capital city, Wellington City Council introduced voluntary rental WOFs late in 2017. While its uptake has been slow—due to a variety of reasons—it provides a good starting point for how a nation-wide scheme might work.
What does a warrant of fitness for rental housing involve?
Under Wellington’s scheme, a rental WOF is applicable to stand-alone houses and apartments, including small self-contained dwellings with a kitchen, toilet, bath/shower and bedroom.
The assessment examines five key areas of a rental property: heating, insulation, ventilation, energy and safety. A qualified building inspector visits the property and assesses it on 29 criteria and 63 questions. A pass/fail result is given on the spot, followed by an emailed report.
A rental home must pass every question to receive its WOF.
How long is the rental WOF valid for?
In Wellington, a rental WOF lasts three years.
What if you fail?
You have six months to fix the issues that the inspection has flagged. Some small fixes, such as replacing light bulbs, may be carried out onsite at the time of the audit, but it is at the discretion of the inspector.
How to prepare for a rental WOF
Rental WOFs are not compulsory in Wellington and have yet to be adopted across the rest of the country. However, that could soon change. With the renewed focus on housing, particularly on rental properties, it’s not far fetched to imagine nationwide rental WOFs on the horizon.
In either case, the laws surrounding the quality of rental properties is tightening, and landlords need to make sure their properties meet the requirements for:
To help landlords prepare their properties for a WOF inspection, Wellington City Council have released a free self-assessment app. With it you can run your own checks to make sure your rental property meets the standard housing requirements.
It pays to be prepared
With the growing momentum behind safe and healthy housing, many landlords are choosing to get ahead of the game. Ensuring your rental is WOF-ready is an excellent way to add to the property’s rent appeal and keep tenants around for the long-term—reducing costly tenant turnover for your property.
If you’re looking to get more out of your rental, it’s also worth picking the brains of a professional property manager. They have a wealth of knowledge on both the local market and the new regulations, and can provide useful insights to ensure your rental ticks all the right boxes.
Arranging a meeting with a professional property manager is easy, at Property Brokers, we offer free rental appraisals to landlords who want to check the health of their rental and find new ways to maximise its return.
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