Insulation and rentals - What landlords need to know (transcript)

From the 1st of July 2019 ceiling and underfloor insulation will be compulsory in all rental homes where reasonably practicable. You might think the insulation in your rental property complies with the Residential Tenancy Act regulations but it may not.

Let's start with the ceiling.

If you can do it safely, get a ladder and check your roof space to see if you have insulation.

If you have no insulation at all, you will need to install new insulation that complies with the regulations. If your insulation is less than 70 millimetres thick, you will need to top up with new insulation that complies with the regulations. If you're unsure, talk to an insulation installer.

If your insulation is thicker than 70 millimetres, you don't need to do anything, provided the insulation is in reasonable condition. But if your insulation is below 120 millimetres, we recommend topping it up anyway.

Reasonable condition means no missing areas, no gaps except around down lights and other heat sources, and no defects. If you have missing areas, gaps or defects you need to bring the insulation up to standard to comply with the regulations.

Now the underfloor.

If you have no insulation at all, you will need to install new insulation to comply with the new regulations.

If you already have underfloor insulation it also needs to be in reasonable condition.

Again, this means no missing areas, no gaps, and no defects.

Insulation that's damaged will need to be repaired or replaced with new underfloor insulation.

If you have foil insulation, this is adequate as long as the top surface is still shiny and there are no rips, gaps or damage. There is a risk of electrocution with foil.

Turn the power off before touching it.

We highly recommend hiring a professional to remove foil.

Damaged foil must not be repaired, it must be replaced with another insulation product. There are some exceptions to these rules these include houses without a roof or subfloor space, and houses with inadequate height in the ceiling or subfloor space.

Talk to an insulation installer to find out if an exception applies or if you have any doubts or questions about your insulation. They understand the rules and regulations and can check and confirm your property complies.

If you do need insulation, check if your rental property is eligible for a 50% subsidy. Find out more about tenancy law at tenancy.govt.nz

Insulation will be compulsory in all rental homes from 1 July 2019.

Ceiling and underfloor insulation must be installed, where it is reasonably practicable, by 1 July 2019. It must meet the standards set out in the regulations and be installed safely. Wall insulation is not compulsory.

The insulation regulations apply to any residential rental property covered by the Residential Tenancies Act.

If you live in social housing and pay an income-related rent, insulation has been compulsory since 1 July 2016. If your tenancy began after that date, the landlord has 90 days to meet the regulations.

How to meet the insulation regulations

Insulation is rated by how well it resists heat flow, measured by the R-value. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.

If ceiling and underfloor insulation was installed in your rental property before July 2016

An upgrade may not be necessary provided the insulation is in reasonable condition (e.g. no mould, dampness or gaps in the insulation), and achieved at least the minimum R-value when the insulation was installed.

Minimum R-values for timber-framed homes:

  • Ceiling R 1.9
  • Underfloor R 0.9

Minimum R-values for masonry homes:

  • Ceiling R 1.5
  • Underfloor R 0.9

If any part of the existing insulation is not in reasonable condition, then the landlord must replace it with insulation that meets the new standard.

If there is no existing insulation or it was installed after 1 July 2016

Insulation in rentals needs to meet the minimum R-values listed below. The minimum R-value will depend on which part of the country the property is in. Please check your area using the below map:

Map of New Zealand climate zones

Minimum R-values for Zones 1 and 2:

  • Ceiling R 2.9
  • Underfloor R 1.3

Minimum R-values for Zone 3:

  • Ceiling R 3.3
  • Underfloor R 1.3

If a rental property is below these levels of insulation, it must be upgraded to meet the new standard.

Where there are multiple layers of insulation and all layers are in reasonable condition, then their product R-values may be combined.

A qualified professional insulation installer can advise you on the best way to meet the regulations.

What does installing insulation cost?

The cost of installing insulation depends on the size, shape and location of the building being insulated. As a rough guide, however, EECA advises that the average cost of paying a professional installer to put in both ceiling and floor insulation is approximately $3,400 excluding GST for a 96m2 property. You should generally expect to pay more than that for a larger home.

Before choosing the product, check the cost per square metre of products with better performance – these have a higher thermal resistance or R-value. The prices of lower and higher-performing insulation products are often similar.

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