Objective: Report on a field test of a rental housing warrant of fitness (WOF) to assess its practicality and utility for supporting improved quality of housing.
Methods: Five councils each recruited at least 25 rental houses to undergo a WOF assessment. The assessment included housing features that, based on a combination of research and practicality, were considered to have an important impact on health, safety and energy efficiency. Assessors were interviewed to get their feedback on the process. Landlords representing 81% of the rental properties were interviewed on their attitudes to the WOF.
Results: Of the sample of 144 houses, 94% failed at least one of 31 criteria. The most common reasons were: unsafe water temperature; no security stays; no smoke alarms; no fixed heating; and unsuitable handrails/balustrades. If items that required little (<NZ$100) or no financial cost were fixed, 44 extra houses (36%) would have passed.
Conclusions: All WOF items could be checked in a variety of dwellings. The houses had numerous health and safety defects, many of which could be rectified relatively easily at a low cost.
Implications: Implementing a rental housing WOF on a national scale has potential to improve the health and safety of tenants, as well as making energy efficiency gains. Future decisions on how to intervene to protect health and safety will be informed by data collected.
Keywords: WOF; energy efficiency; health; housing; injury; minimum housing standard; safety; warrant of fitness.
© 2016 Public Health Association of Australia.