WCC has released their Rental WoF plan into the wild, and it’s a good thing, but like the Labour Party's rental law changes, it lacks bite. In fact it clearly lacks substance at all. It presents a simple and easy to understand list of base measurements for the “liveability” of rental properties in the Wellington Region, and that is a good thing for us all. It could raise the standard of rentals for tenants, and help to more clearly define and highlight substandard properties.
However, recent reports have stated that only two (yes, that says two....!) people have actually taken up the rental WoF option. So what do you think about this?
Below is my take on each of the points, and overall I think that WCC are on to something but they've gone about it in a half-arsed way. There are a few points that are curiously included, and one great big and important one that’s missing from the list. I know this is a longer blog than you’re used to, so you might want to save it for later.
1. Is there a functional, safe stove-top and oven?
In my experience, almost every rental property has an oven that works. Prospective tenants will not rent a property without one.
2. Is there adequate space for food preparation and storage?
In a few properties, this could be an issue, but it’s easily resolved and not hugely expensive.
3. Is there an adequate supply of hot and cold potable water?
Again, in Wellington I don’t think anyone is going to rent a property without running water.
4. Is the hot-water at the tap 55°C (±5°C?)
This one makes sense, and is very easy to check and rectify if needs be.
5. Is there a functional toilet that doesn’t have a cracked or broken seat, cistern or bowl?
No-one is going to rent your property if it doesn’t have a toilet, and a broken toilet seat is easy to sort out. A cracked toilet bowl or cistern will damage your rental property anyway – why would you let that happen?
6. Is there a suitably located bath or shower in good working order?
And again, no-one is going to rent your place if it doesn’t have a shower or a bath.
7. Are there secure or high level cupboards or shelves for storing hazardous or toxic substances out of children's reach?
Very easy to solve this one, and inexpensive too. Installing a high level shelf, or simply fitting childproof locks on a cupboard door is all it takes.
8. Is there an adequate form of safe and effective space heating?
Now this one could have a bit of cost attached to it. Installing heating can be as cheap as a $30 fan heater from Briscoes, and as expensive as a heat pump. All things considered, this item is a good inclusion in the list and should help raise the standard of rentals.
9. Do the bathroom, kitchen and all bedrooms have some form of ventilation to outside?
Now this one get’s the No answer a lot more often than you’d think. Many rentals have bathrooms and kitchens with windows that don’t open, or extractor fans installed. And it’s not cheap and quick to solve this issue. However, I strongly agree with this point – it should be enforced.
10. Is the house reasonably free of visible mould, i.e. the total area of mould is less than an A4 sheet of paper
Who thought THIS one up? Clearly someone in an office somewhere..... Mould is sadly a reality in any property where people are living. Under the RTA, it's the tenant’s responsibility to manage and clean any mould, and a landlord can do a lot to help the situation, with heating, ventilation and treated interior decorating being the most obvious moves.
11. Are power outlets, light switches and wiring safe and in good working order?
I actually advise my client owners to get an electrical WoF on their rental, just to be on the safe side. This is a very important point in the list and needs to be taken much more seriously by landlords.
12. Is there adequate indoor lighting?
Again my experience has been that lighting in almost any rental property would be “adequate”. But how adequate is “adequate”? I guess it depends where you are standing…
13. Does the house have adequate working smoke alarms?
This is now a legal requirement, so it seems a bit pointless to include it in this list.
14. Have the windows got effective latches?
This is a good point, and important from a health and safety point of view, along with ventilation, and also property security. Great to see this in the list, and there will be a cost for many landlords on this one.
15. Do high level windows have security stays to prevent falls?
16. Are there curtains or blinds in the bedrooms and living area?
It’s not often that a rental will have no curtains in the bedrooms and living areas, but sadly it does happen. It doesn’t cost much to fit blinds or curtains and it makes your rental look much nicer. So why wouldn’t you?
17. Do glass doors have safety visibility strips?
What the.....? Are people really so dumb that they will walk into a glass door? Never happened in 16 years of landlording for hundreds of property owners.
18. Does the house have ceiling insulation to WOF standards?
This too is a requirement of the RTA, and so it seems a wee bit pointless doubling up with the law on this point.
19. Does the house have underfloor insulation to WOF standards?
20. Is a ground vapour barrier installed under the ground floor?
This might be a good point, and would certainly help with keeping moisture from entering a property, but think of your own home - does it have a ground vapour barrier? And if a rental doesn't have one, why fail it for a Rental WoF?
21. Is the house weathertight with no evident leaks, or moisture stains on the walls or ceiling?
This is also a good point, and a good check for a landlord AND a tenant to do. If there are leaks and stains, a good landlord would want them fixed ASAP.
22. Is the house in a reasonable state of repair?
Little bit subjective and hard to define, but it’s a fair question that can get a landlord thinking about the condition of their rental.
23. Is the storm and waste water drainage being adequately discharged?
If it isn’t, it’s a basic maintenance job that any sane landlord would want fixed as soon as possible, or would be mentally challenged if they didn't take care of this.
24. Is there any water ponding under the house?
Along with the ground vapour barrier in 20, this should be an easy check, although resolving a ground water issue could be quite expensive. But then who wouldn’t want to eliminate an issue that threatened long term and expensive damage to their investment?
25. Is there adequate outdoor lighting near entrance ways?
Good to see this included. Sensor lights don’t cost a lot, and make a property more attractive to good tenants.
26. Does the house appear to be structurally sound?
Surely this is basically the same questions as 22? And wouldn't you need a Qualified Master Builder, or a Structural Engineer to determine this? That's gonna cost you a lot more than a Rental WoF on its own!
27. Are there handrails for all internal stairs and all outdoor steps that access the house, and do balconies/decks have balustrades to the current Building Code?
Now this question is very specific, and relates to building code. It’s not often that this would get a No answer, and rectifying the issue could be expensive. However, it’s a necessary thing to offer a compliant property to the rental market.
28. Is the address clearly labelled and identifiable?
Easy to fix if it’s not. Why wouldn’t you?
29 Are there securely locking doors?
For the security and peace of mind of tenants, this one is a very important point. Again, it’s not expensive to install a deadlock on a door.
30. Has a methamphetamine test been completed on the property between tenancies, and is there a report available showing that the property is clear of chemical and/or drug contamination?
Now THIS is the big omission from WCC’s list. If they had included this question, it would go a long way towards the ongoing battle landlords have with meth use and contamination.
So there you have it. An optional process with a $250 price tag that two people have taken up so far. I have rentals myself and I'm not about to spend $250 per rental to be given a list of things to do to any of my properties when I already know that they are all insulated, warm, safe, compliant and comfortable.
I don't see landlords queueing up to spend money on this, and some of the points on the list are just plain dumb - "visibility strips" Lol.
But if Wellington City Council were to rule that all rental properties were to be meth tested at least between tenancies when they are vacant, it would go a long way towards the fight against tenants and people damaging property with their drug usage habits.
managemyproperty is an independent Property Management company based in Wellington, New Zealand.
Richard Horne remains a tireless and energetic investor and commentator, running an experienced eye over the property market. Visit the website at managemyproperty.co.nz