WOF for rental properties?

Gisborne housing advocates are welcoming news that University of Otago researchers have developed a housing quality index that could be used as a Warrant of Fitness before any property is rented to tenants.

“We have been talking about ways to ensure every rental property in Gisborne is safe and not contributing to health problems for tenants, particularly the elderly and children” said Manu Caddie, Convenor of the Tairawhiti Housing Advisory Group.

The housing quality index is a comprehensive check-list which trained people can use to grade and report on a property’s attributes and defects from the ground up. While the check-list is not widely used yet, researcher Dr Michael Keall said it could be that, in the future, homeowners could commission such a report for tenants.

The index, the first of its kind in New Zealand, has been developed over the past five years by He Kainga Organa Housing and Health Research Programme staff, including Dr Keall, at the university’s Wellington campus.

Dr Keall is recognised as a world expert on measuring the health impacts of homes and said work on the index was done in collaboration with the Building Research Association of New Zealand (Branz) and based on a similar check-list produced in the UK.

At 42 pages, it was “quite comprehensive” but Mr Caddie suggested that it could be administered for less than the cost of one week’s rent.

“It will be a long time before something like this becomes law, but if there was enough support locally it may be possible to introduce a by-law requiring landlords to provide prospective tenants with an independent assessment based on the new index” said Mr Caddie.

Mr Caddie is standing for the City Ward of Gisborne District Council in upcoming elections and says if elected he would seek Council support to investigate the likely costs and benefits of administering such a system.

“I have been a landlord and I know how easy it is to lose money on rental properties, but I am also aware of some shocking rentals and at present there is nothing that requires landlords to ensure minimum safety and health standards are adhered to.”

Mr Caddie believes such a system would help property owners ensure the value of their assets was maintained and having an independent assessment before renting could be useful when there are disputes over damage allegedly caused by tenants.

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References:

http://sustainablecities.org.nz/members/michael-keall

www.healthyhousing.org.nz

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