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Greta Yeoman Caption: Housing standards . . . Discussion around the standard of rental properties continues as Wellington City Council announces a voluntary housing warrant of fitness scheme and the People's Review of Renting is released. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

Implementing a housing warrant of fitness scheme would be good for South Canterbury, as long as it did not negatively impact on tenants, South Cantabrians say.

Presbyterian Support South Canterbury chief executive Michael Parker said while a housing warrant scheme did “have merit”, the cost of any improvements to a home needed to be balanced with ensuring this did not make rents “prohibitive” for tenants.

“Many vulnerable families already face significant financial challenges – we would not like to see increased pressure on rental costs adversely affecting the ability of families to meet other essential costs such as food, medical care [and] clothing for children.”

Wellington City Council announced last week that it was launching a voluntary housing warrant scheme for landlords.

The warrant assessment would cover insulation, heating, ventilation, structural stability, sanitation, and hazard identification.

NZ Property Investors South Canterbury branch president Kerry Beveridge said while he could see the good intention of a warrant scheme, he was unsure whether it was “best way to achieve the results” as it would put “more restrictions” on landlords and tenants.

He said there were only so many costs a landlord could “absorb” before costs had to be passed on to a tenant.

If tenants had issues with their property there were “a couple of options” to deal with them, including moving to a different property, Mr Beveridge said.

But Mr Parker said Presbyterian Support believed landlords had a “moral obligation” to make sure properties were healthy and safe for tenants to live in, especially the “most vulnerable” in South Canterbury.

South Island Child Poverty Action Group member Emily Keddell said while she had only seen the “briefest details” about the scheme, it looked like a good idea “on the face of it”.

“It would help raise the minimum level of housing required, but as it’s voluntary and landlords have to pay to apply, it may have limited uptake, especially in the situation we have, where demand far outstrips supply.”

Renters’ United spokeswoman Kate Day said the findings in the People’s Review of Renting, which was released yesterday, recommended introducing a mandatory rental Warrant of Fitness, abolishing no-fault evictions, and requiring licensing of landlords and property managers.

Of the more than 600 renters interviewed for the project, which was a New Zealand-wide collaboration with social justice organisation ActionStation, 52% of respondents said their rented houses were not weathertight and 70% said their homes did not have ceiling or underfloor insulation.

More than 60% said their rental property did not have fixed, effective heating.

The uncertainty of renting properties was also an issue raised through the project, a problem also addressed in a 2015 survey by Massey University researchers, which found nearly half of tenants interviewed had moved within the previous two years, one-third of those because the landlord sold the house.

A Waimate District Council spokeswoman told The Courierthe council had not discussed voluntary housing warrants.

Comment was sought from the Timaru District Council and Mackenzie District Council but was not obtained before deadline.