New insulation and smoke alarm requirements finalised

Fire alarm woman set yellow wall M2

Regulations detailing new insulation and smoke alarm requirements to implement changes to the Residential Tenancies Act were approved by Cabinet last week.

Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith said the new tenancy regulations will make 180,000 homes warmer and drier by requiring insulation and 120,000 safer by requiring smoke alarms.

"We are releasing the details of these new requirements now so as to give landlords and tenants as well as insulation and smoke alarm providers as much notice as possible to prepare for the new requirements."

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill was reported back to Parliament by the Select Committee on 8 April 2016. The Bill requires rental homes to have smoke alarms by 1 July 2016 and insulation installed progressively by 1 July 2019. The insulation and smoke alarm requirements opened for submissions and comment on 3 December last year.

“The most significant change to the draft insulation regulations is not allowing retrofitting of conductive foil insulation. The risk with retrofitting this form of insulation occurs when the foil becomes live from accidental stapling into wiring and has resulted in deaths in New Zealand and Australia. Other changes include expressing the required insulation levels in 'R' values rather than thickness and requiring insulation to be installed in accordance with NZS 4246:2006 Energy efficiency - Installing insulation in residential buildings.

“The most contentious issue was whether homes that had insulation but not up to today’s standard have to be upgraded. These regulations are not going to require an upgrade because the costs exceed the benefits and, inevitably, the costs are passed on to the tenant. The benefits of insulation hugely exceed the costs where there is no insulation present but the benefits are marginal for upgrading insulation to the latest standard. This is well illustrated by the data on ceiling heat loss that shows the 1978 standard reducing heat loss by 83 per cent, the 2001 Building Code by 87 per cent, and the 2008 Building Code by 92 per cent.

“We are requiring that for older homes with insulation, it needs to be in reasonable condition. We are also requiring that where insulation work is done where there is no insulation or the insulation is no longer in reasonable condition, that it is done to the higher 2008 Building Code. We are also going to require tenancy agreements to disclose the level of insulation in the ceiling, underfloor, and in the walls as an incentive for landlords to improve insulation over time.

NZS 4246:2006 is under revision.

Published in consumer and occupational safety.