The Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills has labelled the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill as “shameful” and says it will do little to improve conditions for children living in cold, damp, mouldy housing.
The Social Services Select Committee is currently hearing submissions on the bill which proposes to amend the current Residential Tenancies Act (1986) to require smoke alarms and insulation in residential rental properties.
However, the Children’s Commissioner believes the Bill falls short of promises the Government made “to New Zealand children: We will make your house healthy.”
Dr Wills says, “It is intolerable that we have 42,000 admissions and 15 deaths a year for children with conditions associated with poor housing and poverty. This Bill will do little to change this.”
Wills says in order for tenants to receive any help under the proposed amendments to the act, they are still required to make an initial complaint which he believes many will not do out of fear of losing their house.
“Tenants still have to complain if they believe the house is not up to standard. All our experience shows that they don’t and won’t complain because they’re too scared they’ll lose their house or be unable to rent anywhere else,” Wills says.
The Commissioner is asking the Government to amend the Bill to include three elements that would ensure houses are warm and dry:
1. Require all houses meet the current insulation standard
2. Apply a heating and ventilation standard
3. Introduce monitoring or enforcement by local government, with inspections – rather than requiring tenants to complain.