Insulation wake up call

Insulation grants are being extended to low-income homeowners – which should prompt investors to get in quick before the scheme ends.

Until now, the government’s $18 million Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes programme has targeted landlords.

It has offered subsidies to landlords for the costs of putting ceiling and underfloor insulation into rental properties occupied by low-income families since mid-2016.

But Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins announced today that eligibility for these insulation grants has been extended to include low-income home owners as well.

“Insulation reduces health risks caused by cold, damp housing and these grants will benefit our most vulnerable households.”

Collins said landlords should act promptly to get a grant as it is a case of first in, first served.

"Landlords must insulate their rental properties by 1 July 2019 so I would advise them to get in quick and secure a grant while these are available.”

To date, landlords have been slow to take up the insulation grants.

While the programme’s goal was to get 20,000 more New Zealand homes insulated over two years, it recently emerged that after a year just 3,700 properties have been insulated using the subsidy.

NZ Property Investors Federation executive officer Andrew King said that a study of their members revealed that very few went through the government funded scheme.

This was because it is too expensive even with the subsidy, he says.

“Many saved money by doing it themselves, but I've heard of some who bought the insulation and employed an installer and it was still cheaper.”

Additionally, tenants have to play a role in getting the subsidy, King said.

“A tenant needs to be have a Community Services Card or be someone with a known health issue related to living in a cold or damp environment.

“Most landlords wouldn't have a clue if their tenants have a Community Services Card and would be too embarrassed to ask.”

But landlords who need to insulate their rental properties should think about doing so in the near future. Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act mean that, where practical, all rental properties must have ceiling and underfloor insulation to the required standard by 1 July 2019.

Landlords who miss the 2019 deadline will be liable for a penalty of up to $4,000.

The Warm Up New Zealand insulation grants will be available until the end of June 2018.

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