FireBuddy appears to have played a small part in changing legislation regarding upgrading smoke alarm installation to a Ten Year, Photoelectric standard. Well done us and well done all those that have lobbied over the years!
Please find below the announcements of decisions around compulsory fire alarms, and the specs and regulations for all new ones to be long life.
This decision was off the back of your helpful advice. There will be a formal consultation of the detailed regulations.
Happy to meet at any time to discuss further. We expect to finalise the regulations early 2016.
Hon Dr Nick Smith
[embeddoc url=”http://firebuddy.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Nick-Smith.pdf” download=”all” viewer=”google”]
The Residential Tenancies Act is to be strengthened with new requirements for insulation, smoke alarms, better enforcement and faster resolution of abandoned tenancies, Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today.
“This pragmatic package of tenancy law changes will make homes warmer, drier and safer for hundreds of thousands of New Zealand families without imposing excessive bureaucracy or cost,” Dr Smith says.
“The new law will require retrofitting of ceiling and underfloor insulation in rental homes over the next four years. The requirement applies from 1 July 2016 for social housing that is heavily subsidised by Government, and from 1 July 2019 for other rental housing, including boarding houses. There will be exemptions, such as where it is physically impractical to retrofit insulation due to limited space underfloor or inaccessible raked ceilings.
“There will also be a new requirement from 1 July 2016 for all landlords to state in tenancy agreements the level of ceiling, underfloor and wall insulation to help better inform tenants. These new insulation requirements in our tenancy laws are the logical next step following our programme to retrofit insulation in 53,000 state houses and the 280,000 grants from the Warm Up New Zealand scheme.
“Smoke alarms will also be required in all tenanted properties from 1 July 2016. Regulations will make landlords responsible for ensuring an operational smoke alarm is in place, and tenants responsible for replacing batteries or notifying landlords of defects. Long life (10-year) photoelectric alarms will be required where there is no existing alarm or when replacing an existing alarm.
“The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will have new powers to investigate and prosecute landlords for breaking tenancy laws as part of these reforms, particularly where there is risk to the health and safety of tenants. The changes will also ensure tenants can take concerns to the Tenancy Tribunal without fear of being evicted for doing so.
“There will be a new 10-day process introduced to enable re-tenanting of properties where a tenant abandons a property with no intention of returning. The current process can take up to six weeks leaving a house empty and the landlord out of pocket.
“These reforms are to be supported by a $1.5 million information campaign aimed at improving compliance with existing and new tenancy law requirements, as well as providing guidance on the practical ways that homes can be made healthier.
“This package is a more pragmatic and efficient way of improving housing standards than a housing warrant of fitness scheme. Such a scheme would cost $100 million per year, or $225 per house for inspections alone, and these costs would be passed on to tenants in rents. This is money we believe is better spent on real improvements like insulation and smoke alarms. Significant issues like leaky roofs, insecure doors, excessive dampness and unsafe wiring are already covered by existing regulations, and the better response is tougher enforcement. Other issues like window stays, glass visibility safety strips and hot water temperature are best improved by education.
“The Government is proceeding with the insulation and smoke alarm requirements because they are practical and deliver benefits far in excess of the costs. The insulation retrofitting is expected to cost $600 million, with benefits of $2.10 for each dollar of this cost. The smoke alarms are expected to cost $7 million and provide benefits of $15.10 per dollar of cost. Officials estimate the flow-on effect on rents for a property requiring ceiling and underfloor insulation and a new smoke alarm to be $3.20 per week.
“These reforms will require 180,000 homes to be insulated and the 120,000 homes currently without smoke alarms to have them installed. The health benefits of this will be reduced hospitalisations from circulatory and respiratory illnesses, reduced pharmaceutical costs, and fewer days off work and school. The smoke alarms are expected to save three lives per year,” Dr Smith says.
The package announced today was agreed to by Cabinet on Monday and will be included in a Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill to be introduced to Parliament by October. The specific regulations on the insulation and smoke alarms will be consulted on in parallel with the select committee process.
Related documents are available at: www.mbie.govt.nz/what-we-do/housing/changes-to-residential-tenancies-act.
Here are the Q and A’s re smoke alarms .
8. What are the new smoke alarm standards?
The new smoke alarm standards will require a minimum of one working smoke alarm in the hall or similar, within three metres of each bedroom door. In a self-contained sleep-out, caravan or similar, a minimum of one working smoke alarm will be required, as per Fire Service recommendations.
The landlord must ensure the alarm is operational at the beginning of a tenancy and the tenant will be responsible for replacing batteries during the tenancy.
Where there are currently no smoke alarms, the new standard will require long-life photoelectric alarms. Long-life alarms cannot easily have the batteries removed, and are more cost-effective over time because batteries do not need to be replaced every six to 12 months.
Where there are existing smoke alarms, that are not long-life photoelectric, these do not need to be replaced immediately, but when they do need replacing, they should be replaced with long-life photoelectric alarms.
9. How much will the smoke alarm standards cost?
Long-life photoelectric alarms cost approximately $40 and last for up to 10 years.
A 9V battery-operated smoke alarm costs about $12, with batteries needing replacement every six to 12 months.
10. Will the new standards apply to boarding houses and caravan parks?
The new standards will apply to all tenancies under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, so this includes boarding house tenancies, and caravans or cabins that are tenanted for longer than 28 days.
Caravans will be exempt from insulation requirements and cabins may be exempt, depending on the design. Smoke alarm requirements will apply to both caravans and cabins.
11. How does New Zealand law compare with Australia in respect of smoke alarms?
Smoke alarms are a mandatory requirement in all states and territories of Australia.
12. How will people be informed about the new standards for smoke alarms and insulation?
MBIE will run an information campaign that will promote the new insulation and smoke alarm standards, as well as provide information about existing requirements and remedies available to tenants. The campaign will also include practical information about preventing dampness and mould.
13. How will compliance be monitored and enforced?
Where a tenant considers a property doesn’t meet the insulation or smoke standards (or existing requirements under the Housing Improvement Regulations, they will be able to use existing processes to take a case to the Tenancy Tribunal and the Tribunal can make a work order, and order exemplary damages of up to $3000.
There are, however, a small minority of landlords seek to take advantage of vulnerable tenants. Where severe breaches of the Residential Tenancy Act are alleged, the Government believes it is appropriate that it is able to investigate and, if necessary, take direct action against such landlords, rather than on behalf of a tenant. That is why the Government will also provide MBIE with new powers to take direct action in the most serious cases, and there is a significant risk to tenant health and safety.