Smoke alarms and insulation required in all NZ rental properties

Smoke alarms in rentalsThe New Zealand government is introducing changes to the Residential Tenancies Act with new requirements for smoke alarms and insulation. These tenancy law changes will require landlords of tenanted properties to install long life photoelectric smoke alarms as from 1 July 2016, and floor and ceiling insulation from 1 July 2019.

Smoke alarms are a key warning device in reducing deaths caused by fires at home, and installing them in all rental properties will improve safety for tenants, as well as give landlords peace of mind. Although these new regulations will make the landlord responsible for installing and maintaining smoke alarms, it will be the tenant’s responsibility to replace batteries or notify the landlord of any defects.

Underfloor and ceiling insulation will help to make rental homes warmer and drier, resulting in health benefits for tenants including reduced hospitalisations from circulatory and respiratory illnesses, reduced pharmaceutical costs, and fewer days off work and school. Improved insulation will also assist with reducing heating costs.

The government currently offers a subsidy for installing insulation (conditions apply) and Auckland Council also offers financial assistance in the form of a loan which is paid back through rates. For further information please read Changes to NZ Renting Laws: Smoke alarms and insulation required.

If you’re an Auckland landlord and your rental property needs smoke alarms, check out Allen Realty’s special offer for free smoke alarms.

Tips for claiming damages at the Tenancy Tribunal

At times landlords may encounter problem tenancies where damage has occurred to their rental property. In cases where a tenant has caused damage to a rental property but refuses to fix the damage, the Residential Tenancies Act requires the landlord to issue a 14-day notice to remedy the damage.

If the tenant still refuses to fix damages following the 14-day notice, the landlord can then make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal in order to recover the cost of the damages. The Tenancy Tribunal is a court which deals with disagreements between landlords and tenants and is part of the Ministry of Justice. The Tribunal can order the tenant to either repair the damages or pay compensation and these orders are legally binding.

When making an application to the Tenancy Tribunal, landlords need to provide detailed evidence in order for the application to be successful. Applications should include:

  • Inspection reports that detail the condition of the property throughout the tenancy
  • Photos that show the damage that has occurred
  • Invoices that detail and prove that any work undertaken has been completed
  • The value of any goods, chattels and fittings that were damaged, taking depreciation into account (view Inland Revenue depreciation rates).

If you can’t prove the condition of the property then you are unlikely to be awarded any damages, so the more detailed evidence you provide, the more likely your application will be successful.

Allen Realty property managers record all aspects of our properties to ensure landlords are protected in the event of a claim for damages, including regular inspections with lots of photos. You can have complete peace of mind knowing that your investment is in the best hands when you Switch to Allen Realty.

How to increase the value of your rental property

Rental property management can be stressful and time consuming—tenancies need to be negotiated, rent payments collected and monitored, urgent and ongoing maintenance dealt with promptly, and legal obligations fulfilled. If you are a landlord and finding it difficult to keep on top of these tasks, you may want to consider hiring an experienced property manager.

A property manager can select tenants who are best suited to your property, achieve best market rents, minimise rent arrears, and deal with maintenance issues and tenancy disputes. A great property manager will also ensure your prized asset increases in value:

  • A property manager can provide feedback on improvements to make your property more appealing. A well-presented rental property is likely to attract better tenants and achieve higher rents. Basic improvements such as neat gardens, fresh paint, and safety and heating features will create greater demand, higher rent and lower vacancies. Plus any improvements will also increase the capital value of the property.
  • A property manager will carry out thorough, regular inspections to record the condition of the property. These inspections are vital as they help to identify any cleanliness or maintenance issues before they become urgent and costly repairs. Inspection reports that include photos are invaluable for recording the condition of the property at the beginning and throughout a tenancy should any disputes arise at a later date. Proactive maintenance ensures that your property is well-presented, resulting in higher rents and long term tenancies, which will increase cashflow and add capital value.
  • A property manager is focused on caring for you, your property and your tenants on a daily basis. They will ensure your property is well maintained and be available 24/7 to respond to urgent queries, provide tenancy advice, deal with disputes and keep you fully informed. A great property management company will also have excellent systems in place to minimise rent arrears, and ensure that all rent payments, rates, water etc are taken care of in a timely manner. They will also provide detailed monthly statements so you’ll be set for the end of the financial year. This focus to detail ensures your rental property is kept in optimal condition, which means more money in your pocket. Plus property management services are tax deductible!

Allen Realty provides a comprehensive yet flexible property management service for Auckland landlords and property investors, with a focus on communication and customer care. Get one of our skilled property managers on board and give your rental the attention (and value) it deserves.

How to find the best property manager

Although Kiwis love a bit of DIY, when it comes to residential property management, private landlords may wish to employ a professional property manager if their time and resources are limited.

Property management companies can provide a systemised and proactive service focusing on managing and improving the performance of your rental property, but they’re not all created equal! We recommend asking the following questions to ensure your investment is in good hands:

  1. Are their staff experienced and qualified in residential property management?
  2. Are they Members of the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, and aspire to best practice standards?
  3. Are rent payments secure and paid directly into an audited trust account?
  4. Does the company have systems and processes in place to manage your property effectively including marketing, tenanting, collecting rent, managing and disbursing rent payments and expenses, inspections, managing maintenance etc, with strong administrative support?
  5. Are regular inspections carried out to monitor the condition of your rental property, and do the inspection reports include photos to record damage, along with wear and tear?
  6. Do they complete thorough credit checks and obtain verbal and written references from previous landlords and employers when selecting tenants?
  7. Do they have a comprehensive system in place for managing rent arrears to ensure missed payments are remedied promptly?
  8. Are they up-to-date with current legislation affecting rental properties and tenancies including the Residential Tenancies Act and the Building Act.
  9. Are they experienced with resolving tenancy disputes through the Tenancy Tribunal?
  10. Do they carry out regular rent reviews to ensure that maximum rent is achieved?
  11. Do they provide detailed financial statements and are the statements available to view online at any time?

Allen Realty property managers provide a professional service which includes all of the above aspects and much more.

View our property management services: Landlord Services

See what our customers say about us: Testimonials.

Caution required when carrying out electrical work in rental properties

DIY homeowners in New Zealand are allowed to carry out a limited amount of electrical work in their own home, including replacing switches and repairing light fittings. This is not the case in rental properties however, and both landlords and tenants should be aware that ALL electrical work must be completed by a licensed electrician (this is a legal requirement of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, the Building Act, and the Health and Safety Act). It is also a breach of the tenancy agreement for tenants to do any electrical work without the landlord’s written approval.

Once any new electrical work has been completed, the electrician issues a Certificate of Compliance which should be retained in a safe place, as this may be required in the event of a fire. If the fire was found to be caused by uncertified electrical work, this could negate the landlord’s insurance.

Landlords are advised to carefully monitor the condition of their rental property on a regular basis to ensure no new work has taken place. If uncertified electrical work is discovered, Allen Realty recommends you advise your tenant that an electrician is required to check the work so that a Certificate of Compliance can be issued, and that the tenant is liable for this cost.

Employ a professional property manager for your rental property and they will check electrical fittings and appliances during regular maintenance inspections to ensure there are no issues with compliance.

Tenants — love thy neighbour and quietly enjoy your rental home

There’s nothing quite like excessive and recurring noise coming from your neighbour’s property to initiate a “neighbours at war” situation. Unfortunately noise problems may intensify during summer when doors and windows are flung open, and occupants of the house next door spend more time relaxing and playing outdoors.

When it comes to being a good neighbour, tenants also have a responsibility to respect their neighbours “quiet enjoyment” of their home. Section 40(2C) of the Residential Tenancies Act requires tenants to not interfere with the “reasonable peace, comfort, or privacy of any other person residing in the neighbourhood”. The Resource Management Act (Section 326) states “any noise that is under human control that interferes with the peace, comfort and convenience of any person” is excessive noise.

Any noise complaints are best directed to your local council’s Noise Control service rather than the landlord or property manager, as they are able to assess any complaint and issue a breach notice, which can then be used as evidence at the Tenancy Tribunal if further action is taken.

When Noise Control is contacted, they send out an Enforcement Officer who will investigate and determine if the noise is excessive. If the noise is excessive they will issue a breach notice, and if the noise continues, the Enforcement Officer can issue fines or seize equipment.

An alternative solution is to issue a 14 day notice if a tenant is in breach of their obligations regarding quiet enjoyment at a property. This is often not practical as noise issues generally need to be resolved immediately, so using the Noise Control service is a better option.

In all cases, communication between all parties involved is the best way forward in order to prevent reoccurring noise complaints.

For tips on measures you can take to help reduce noise at your rental property, please read Tips for tenants: Avoid noise control complaints.

How to prevent common maintenance issues during your tenancy

There are several common maintenance issues tenants can encounter during their tenancy which can easily be avoided by following a few simple, cost effective tips from Allen Realty property managers.

Avoid blocked drains in the kitchen by operating your InSinkErator correctly

One of the most common maintenance requests our property managers receive from tenants are blocked waste disposal units and kitchen drains. Often this is because the InSinkErator hasn’t been used correctly or has never been cleaned. Follow these tips and avoid blockages:

  • When operating the waste disposal unit always use lots of cold water to flush the food scraps away
  • You can grind most food waste but the following foods can cause the drain to clog so are best avoided: corn husks, celery stalks, uncooked meat, rice, pasta, potato peels, coffee grinds
  • Avoid pouring oil or fat down the waste disposal as this can block the drain over time
  • Keep the unit clean by grinding some ice cubes and salt (this will be noisy) every now and again. A couple of slices of lemon whizzed up will also make your kitchen smell fresh.
  • If your InSinkErator is a bit stinky and the drain is running slow, sprinkle half cup of baking soda in the unit and pour over one cup of white vinegar (this will be quite spectacular and froth up!). After a few minutes run the waste disposal unit with plenty of hot water.

Ensure a speedy bond refund by keeping walls and surfaces clean

It’s now easier than ever to keep walls, doors, and other surfaces free from scuff marks and stains. Not only will you pass your property inspection with flying colours, but it will also assist with a prompt bond refund at the end of your tenancy. Specialist products such as Magic Sponges are great products which help get rid of these marks with little effort or damage to surfaces. They are available from most supermarkets and hardware stores.

Avoid health problems and damage to property by preventing mould and mildew

Too much moisture in homes encourages mould and mildew, which can then cause health problems such as allergies and asthma, particularly in children. Once mould and mildew appears on walls, curtains and other surfaces, it is not only difficult to remove, but can also cause long-term damage to the rental property.

Here are some helpful tips that will help prevent the growth of mould:

  • Open windows regularly to increase airflow
  • Avoid using unflued gas heaters or clothes dryers
  • Always use the extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom
  • Open the curtains first thing in the morning and close them when the sun sets
  • Use a dehumidifier if possible, particularly when drying clothes indoors
  • Wipe condensation off windows daily
  • HRV systems and heat pumps will help keep the home warm and dry
  • Remove mould when it first appears and use products such as Exit Mould which will help to stop the mould growing back

Landlords advised to check flooring in bathrooms for signs of water damage

Landlords should inspect the lino in bathrooms regularly for any signs of lifting as this can indicate water damage. This is a common occurrence in older rental properties where there is a gap between the shower/bath and the hand basin, as shower curtains are often not completely watertight and water splashing into this gap on a regular basis can cause the glue to fail and the lino to lift. Over time this can also cause the sides and base of the vanity as well as the floor under the lino to rot from water damage.

If you discover lino lifting in your bathroom, you should investigate further and pull it up to check the flooring underneath for moisture. If it is dry, the lino needs to be re-glued to ensure water-tightness. If there is moisture, it is recommended you pull out the lino and then dry out the flooring before installing new lino. Consider replacing the shower curtain with a fixed shower panel, which will help to reduce water splashing out of the shower and on to the floor. Installing a bathroom fan heater will also assist with reducing moisture in the bathroom.

Property maintenance is an important aspect of managing a rental property and Allen Realty property managers recommend regular inspections to identify any maintenance issues before they become troublesome. Addressing moisture issues and making improvements to the bathroom is worthwhile for landlords, as this is one of the most important areas when it comes to attracting long-term tenants.

Replacing blown fuses in older rental properties

Fixing a blown fuse in rental properties these days is usually as simple as flicking a switch. This is because all new properties are required by law to install Residual Current Devices (RCDs) that will disconnect electricity when there is a power overload.

As blown fuses are usually caused by switch overloading, it is usually seen as the tenant’s responsibility to fix. However many homes built over 40 years ago still have old porcelain style fuses, and when these blow a new fuse wire needs to be installed. Prior to 1980, most tenants would have known how to replace these wires, but these days most tenants wouldn’t have a clue. As a result it is now often seen to be the landlord’s responsibility to either replace the fuse, or show the tenant how to do this.

For instructions on replacing a porcelain fuse, click here.

Spring maintenance tips for rental property owners

Spring is the ideal time to take care of any winter build-up of moss and mould around your rental property. Driveways and decks can become very slippery and may be hazardous for your tenants, particularly areas that have been shaded over winter.

Driveways and decks can usually be waterblasted to remove moss and mould build-up. Soft timber decks such as pine can be damaged by waterblasting however, and should be cleaned with a specialised deck cleaning product which can be scrubbed in with a hard broom and hosed off. If decks are cleaned regularly it will not only keep them looking good, but will help prolong the life of the deck.

Painting jobs can be tackled once the weather improves, and Allen Realty property managers recommend using a professional exterior house washing service prior to painting to help to remove any mould, dirt, and peeling paint. These companies apply a specialist cleaning product prior to washing in order to protect surfaces.

Daylight saving is the perfect time to check all batteries in smoke alarms in your rental property—smoke alarms save lives but only if they work!

Allen Realty property managers can assist Auckland landlords with rental property maintenance and smoke alarms—visit www.allenrealty.co.nz to find out how.