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Report Released Into Safety Assessments Of Boarding Houses

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has released its report into the proactive assessment of multi-storey boarding houses.

The fire at Loafers Lodge on 16 May 2023, where five people tragically lost their lives, stresses the importance of ensuring similar boarding houses meet current fire safety regulations and landlord obligations to keep tenants safe.

MBIE has led an initiative (Operation Magazine) to identity and assess boarding houses across New Zealand, in buildings with potentially high fire-safety risk, three storeys or higher, and without an automatic sprinkler system.

MBIE visited 37 boarding houses alongside Fire and Emergency New Zealand and local councils. The report covers the findings from the inspections that identified non-compliance with Building Warrant of Fitness (BWoF) requirements, fire safety systems and healthy homes standards.

“The inspections highlight a number of fire safety concerns that can be addressed to avoid tragedies like Loafers Lodge from happening again,” says Simon Thomas, MBIE’s Head of Building System, Delivery and Assurance.

“MBIE has promptly provided initial findings to councils with recommendations to improve boarding house compliance within their regions. The response has been positive and in many cases the recommendations have already been implemented, and issues resolved.”

“As regulator of the Building Act, MBIE’s role is to provide guidance to councils to ensure boarding houses comply with regulations, and we monitor council performance. To support councils to take appropriate action, MBIE will use the inspection findings to provide information on the critical importance of building warrant of fitness audits, and enforcement of fire safety regulations for safer boarding houses.”

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In terms of legislation, MBIE has a stewardship responsibility for reviewing and updating the Building Code. The tragedy at Loafers Lodge underscores the need to ensure that the Building Code’s fire safety requirements are modern and fit for purpose.

Industry bodies and people involved in fire safety have also approached MBIE, or provided comment about their fire safety concerns with the current code. As a result, the Minister has indicated that a review of the fire safety provisions in the Building Code will be a key portfolio focus area.

MBIE’s Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team (TCIT) is working with boarding house operators to ensure they are meeting their landlord obligations for tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 and healthy homes standards.

Information on boarding house tenancies has been developed and is available in several languages, and MBIE is working with community-based organisations to educate and inform landlords and tenants on the different types of tenancies and associated rights and responsibilities.

The report is available on MBIE’s building website: Report into safety assessments of boarding houses.


Notes for editors

  • Local councils identified up to 70 boarding house style buildings across New Zealand with a fire safety risk similar to Loafers Lodge. A review of the data reduced the number to 37 boarding houses that provided accommodation in buildings with potentially high fire-safety risk, three stories or higher, and without an automatic sprinkler system.
  • The site visits took place between August and October 2023 starting with Wellington, Queenstown and Auckland, followed by regional visits from Invercargill to Whāngarei.

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