John Te Kura in his kitchen. PHOTOS/STEVE RENDLE

Trust House error leaves house without insulation
Trust House spells out upgrading plans

Steve Rendle
steve.rendle@age.co.nz

John Te Kura is wearing a balaclava.

It’s cold outside but I’m talking to Te Kura in the kitchen of his Clyde St Trust House home.

The house is cold, and he is in the process of moving his bed into the kitchen in the hope that the oven can provide some heating.

There is a woodburner in the living room, but he said he couldn’t afford fuel to use it.

“I just want to be warmer,” he said.

“The only heater in the place is the oven.

“I feel the house should be a lot warmer than it is – I would even pay a bit more rent.”

It’s no wonder the place is cold – a look under the house shows no insulation, a breach of regulations for landlords that came into force on July 1, requiring underfloor and ceiling insulation.

In the ceiling, Insulfluff-style insulation is showing its age.

Trust House general manager Craig Thomson admitted something’s gone amiss with Te Kura’s home.

“According to our records, the house indicated was fitted with extra insulation in the roof and insulated underfloor,” he said.

“That is clearly not the case. I have already contacted our installer and asked them to prioritise this property for fitting.”

That’s good news for Te Kura, but it’s likely to take weeks, rather than days, to happen.

Thomson said even for assessments, installers had backlogs.

Trust House has 485 houses from Martinborough to Dannevirke, but Thomson believed this was a “one-off, administrative error”.

He said at the time insulation work was being done, some years ago, record-keeping was poor.

Aside from insulation, Te Kura’s home is showing signs of wear and tear, with the bathroom, in particular, not particularly welcoming.

Daniel Pio – still waiting for work to be done on bathroom.

That’s similar to a Trust House property in Churchill Ave, where tenant Daniel Pio has moved the bed into the living room, with the woodburner.

He said he opened the windows every day, but there was still mould on walls.

He and his partner had also used the stove for heating, but that sent power bills past $400 a month.

He is frustrated by the bathroom in particular – “I’ve been here five years – why hasn’t the bathroom been done.”

He asked why a heatpump could not be installed.

Thomson said heat pumps had been installed in all Trust House properties which had open fires.

“We have also installed heat pumps where the wood burner has become unserviceable, or the tenant is unable to use a wood burner. We currently have 25 per cent of our properties with heat pumps fitted.”

He said Trust House was already working to ensure its properties met new minimum standards that come into force in July 2023. These will include new standards for insulation, but also make extraction fans a requirement in kitchens and bathrooms.

“The process of upgrading the properties to meet all of the [new] standards has already begun. We are contracting out to extra companies to ensure we meet all of these standards by 2023,” he said.

“As with many other landlords there are going to be properties that are compliant as of July 1, 2019, but will need a top up in the ceiling to ensure they meet the July 1, 2023 standards.

“Trust House will also be removing underfloor blanket foil insulation of 90 properties and upgrading them to new bulk insulation – this is not required by law, but the foil insulation can get damaged.”

Thomson said Trust House took its role as a landlord seriously.

“Where we make a mistake we will acknowledge it and get it fixed as soon as possible.”

Last week the first landlords were fined for not providing adequate insulation, with a maximum of $4000 payable to tenants.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has encouraged tenants to talk to their landlords before applying to the Tenancy Tribunal.

“If the issue cannot be resolved, any tenant who feels that their landlord has failed to meet their responsibilities can make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal,” it said.