New Residential Tenancy Regulations – Smoke Alarms and Insulation

Amendments to the Residential Tenancies Regulations mean additional requirements for insulation and smoke alarms for residential tenancies in New Zealand. These changes are to make homes warmer, drier and safer.

What are the changes?

Came into force on 1 July 2016

  • All rental properties must have smoke alarms.
  • All new tenancy agreements must include a statement of the extent and safety of insulation in the property.
  • Any repair or installation of insulation in a rental property must meet the required standard.
  • All social houses where the tenant pays an Income Related Rent must have underfloor and ceiling insulation where it can be practically installed.

From 1 July 2019

  • All rental properties must have underfloor and ceiling insulation where it can practically be installed.

The Residential Tenancies Regulations will set out how much insulation and how many smoke alarms will be required as well as what properties would be excluded.

The new rules will only apply to tenancies covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 – including boarding houses. Examples of tenancies not subject to the Residential Tenancies Act are some rent to buy schemes, holiday houses, and boarders in owner-occupied houses (that are not boarding houses).

What are the Proposed New Smoke Alarm Standards?

Smoke alarms will be required to be placed in accordance with the following criteria:

  • A minimum of one working smoke alarm in hallways or similar, within three meters of each bedroom door.
  • In a self-contained sleep-out, caravan or similar, a minimum of one working smoke alarm will be required.
  • In a multi-level unit, there must be a working smoke alarm on each level.

The landlord must ensure that the alarm is operational at the beginning of each new tenancy.

The tenant will be responsible for changing batteries during their tenancy and reporting defective smoke alarms to the landlord.

Where there are currently no smoke alarms, the new standard will require long-life photoelectric alarms to be installed. Long-life alarms cannot have their batteries easily removed, and are more cost-effective over time because batteries do not need to be replaced every six to 12 months.
If a property has existing smoke alarms that are not long-life photoelectric, landlords will not need to replace them immediately. But when they do need replacing they should be replaced with long-life photoelectric alarms.