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Property WOF – Winners and Losers

person asleep on sofa

Proposals for a property WOF scheme for rental properties in New Zealand have sparked debate among authorities and bodies representing landlords and tenants. The aim of such schemes, according to councils like Wellington City Council, is to protect tenants and ensure that they have access to safe, secure homes, but is the WOF scheme the solution? Here, we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of the programme and discover why people feel so passionately about the proposition.

What exactly is the WOF?

The WOF (Warrant of Fitness) is a scheme, which has been put forward to try and raise the standards of rental properties. It’s well-documented that some tenants endure horrific experiences, and the WOF is presented as a means of setting a minimum standard. As part of planned inspections, assessors would check insulation, heating, structural stability and ventilation. There would also be risk assessment involved to identify potential hazards. The people behind the scheme argue that the WOF would benefit both landlords and tenants. From the point of view of the tenant, they would have peace of mind that their home is safe and a landlord with a WOF would be able to market their property as a safe, comfortable and warm place to live. The assessment process costs $250 and the scheme has been backed by health bodies.

What are the main issues with the WOF scheme?

You may read the paragraph above and question why anyone would object to the introduction of the WOF scheme. The truth is that opinion is divided because the process of satisfying the criteria is perhaps not as simple as it seems. Advocates for landlords claim that there is a high risk of landlords losing out financially, especially when it comes to insulating their properties, as companies are taking advantage of new regulations and pushing up prices. Landlords have spoken of inflated fees and significant expense, even when government subsidies have been applied. Some landlords have even advised others to check companies that don’t offer subsidies as well as those that do, as it is feared that providers are hiking prices up so much that the subsidy is rendered worthless. There’s no regulation in the industry and quotes may vary from $11 to over $45 per square metre. When landlords are faced with increased bureaucracy and elevated running costs, there’s only one outcome: higher fees for tenants. The insulation clause in the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act is also an issue, as many suspect that this is yet another opportunity for firms offering insulation to make money.

What is the solution?

An Auckland property manager says the intentions behind the WOF scheme are undoubtedly something to think about and most landlords wouldn’t argue with measures to improve health and safety. However, there have been suggestions that there are more effective ways of achieving better conditions for tenants. One approach would be to target families who are at risk of health problems using initiatives such as electricity vouchers or subsidies for more efficient heating systems. At present, there’s a feeling that the wrong people are profiting from proposals and a worry that the only winners will be unregulated companies looking to make a quick buck.