Dom Post calls for 90% of rental houses to be banned

The Dom Post editorial:

Housing in is not only scarce and expensive; for too many people, it is also downright unhealthy.

Our housing stock is of poorer quality than most OECD countries. In particular, too many houses are damp and cold – which means they contribute to our grim rates of infectious and respiratory diseases. …

They have also long pushed for a “warrant of fitness” regime for rental properties, an idea that is now receiving new attention. That’s deserved – a version of it should be taken up by the Government with haste.

Extensive work has already been done, so there is no excuse for delay. Most recently, results from a pilot study on 144 rental homes showed 90 per cent failing the warrant.

90% of rental houses failed the warrant, yet the Dom Post wants it made compulsory. That’s a great way to make rental housing far more scarce and expensive.

A as a voluntary initiative where landlords who want properties accredited can do so, is a good idea. But making it compulsory will reduce the housing supply, and push prices up. Remember the law of unintended consequences.

That number needs some qualification – some houses failed for such easily remedied reasons as flat batteries in smoke alarms. But other results were more deeply concerning – like the third of that lacked any form of fixed heating.

My apartment has no fixed heating. So it would be illegal to rent it out if I wanted to? What next, illegal to have a flatmate without a warrant?

If introduced, the scheme should be pared down a little. It’s not obvious, for instance, that an inspector needs to check people’s window latches, as happened in the pilot. The WoF should focus on the essentials – keeping all renters warm and dry. Landlords too often neglect basic task, especially for low-income tenants.

The scheme, if made compulsory, will only grow year after year. Lobby groups will demand more and more things be added to it. Far better to have it as a voluntary accreditation, where if it is made too demanding, then landlords will not sign up for it.

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