More than 90 per cent of rental properties in a nationwide survey have failed a ''warrant of fitness'' (WOF) check.
About 140 rentals across Christchurch, Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington and Dunedin were given the once-over by home assessment experts earlier this year.
The rental housing WOF trial involved councils, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), the New Zealand Green Building Council and the University of Otago.
It aimed to test whether draft WOF checklists and methodologies were practical for landlords, assessors and tenants.
About 94 per cent of the 144 houses inspected did not pass at least one of the 31 checklist items, but the majority failed on only a handful.
The trial found 36 per cent would pass all of the draft WOF criteria with "just a few minor and inexpensive fixes", such as installing smoke alarms or adjusting hot-water temperatures.
The WOF looked at weather tightness, insulation, ventilation, lighting, heating, the condition of appliances and general building safety.
In the trial, 40 per cent of houses did not pass the water temperature check, 30 per cent did not have a working smoke alarm within three metres of bedrooms and 31 per cent lacked code-compliant handrails and balustrades.
The trial also found 37 per cent did not have a fixed form of heating and 38 per cent did not pass a security-stays check.
Christchurch City Council housing committee chair Glenn Livingstone said the trial made it clear that a rental housing WOF system would be useful to renters.
"It would give prospective tenants the ability to make quick decisions about whether they want to look more closely at a property," he said.
"They would be able to easily see whether a house is safe, healthy and energy-efficient."
Dr Julie Bennett of the University of Otago said the trial was well-received by landlords, tenants and the assessors.
"We are now going back to look at the checklist and criteria to make sure we have a robust and usable housing WOF for the rental market," she said.
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