Consultations Unpacked: Notes from A Warrant of Fitness for New Zealand Homes Discussion

Council of Social Services Dunedin and Dunedin Community Law Centre hosted an open discussion of the possibility of a Warrant of Fitness for Housing on Thursday 3 October 2013. The following is a summary of opinions expressed at the meeting:


  • DCC is interested in minimum standards of rental accommodation, but haven’t settled on best way to achieve this.
  • It was clear from the DCC’s Social Wellbeing consultation that the quality of housing stock was a concern; residents want warm and adequate housing.
  • OUSA interested in student housing stock, and thinking of the best way forward – one idea is introducing a local Bill re: minimum standards. OUSA has drafted local Bill, DCC may or may not go with it.
  • DCC cannot develop a bylaw that encourages minimum standards because this would be ultra vries
  • Internationally the UK has minimum housing standards
  • Green Party has a Private Members Bill re: minimum standards
  • Need to be mindful of unintended consequences.

Presbyterian Support Otago

In 2004 Presbyterian Support Otago published Old, Cold and Costly? A Survey of Low Income Private Rental Housing in Dunedin (, they are currently revisiting homes they visited 10 years ago, looking to see if there are improvements.

Opinions expressed


If a WoF is introduced there are some unintended consequences for elderly folk.

  • Elderly residents, they are now being encouraged to stay in their homes for as long as possible, there is pressure to be as independent for as long as possible.
  • Elderly residents feel they need to keep up with the maintenance of their homes or they are letting their children down (ie: in terms of inheritance).


WoF is only a small part of the picture, we need a holistic view. Poverty is an issue; 60-70% of people’s income is going on rent.


  • If you instigated a housing WoF it would result in a rent increase. Median rents would start to climb.
  • Should encourage new builds, if there is new housing stock on the market the quality rises and old houses will drop off the market.
  • Regulatory problems with renovating older housing stock – problems re: Historic Places Trust saving older Dunedin homes.
  • Questions around where the standard is set, and time frames, ie: 5 – 10 year compliance, possibility of a star rating system.


Idea of a star rating system

  • would apply to landlords and not to private home owners;
  • some private home owners cannot afford the upkeep of their homes.

General Discussion

  • Need to educate tenants in what to look for, Otago Polytechnic has guidance online:
  • Issue of what new migrants think of Dunedin’s housing stock; New Zealanders tend to put up with poorer housing stock.
  • Students choose location over housing stock.
  • Unintended consequences (ie: rent increases) versus a moral issue (good quality homes for families). Is legislation a way of dealing with morality?
  • Compliance is a way to weed out rogue landlords.
  • We can’t legislate private home owners, some private homeowners are bringing up children in substandard housing and the health system has to pick up the pieces.
  • International models: Scotland Scottish Housing Quality Standards, requirement that these be met by 2015. (
  • Landlords need to be supported to bring homes up to standard in a way that does not increase the cost of rent.
  • Over time minimum standards will become the norm. Two – three years ago you could charge extra if you put a heatpump in, now the market has created heatpumps as a minimum standard so you cannot charge more.
  • Dunedin is an old city, need a localised WoF and some sort of benchmark and more research.
  • Good quality housing is a Human Rights issue and a mark of civilised society.
  • Needs to be some education around what to look for in rental accommodation, and also education for landlords, asking them the question “if I am renting would I live like this?” If landlords look after their premises they will find that their tenants will too.

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