From my office desk I’m looking out the window into an Auckland mid-winter day – you guessed it the rains have come. The kind of day when you really hope that everyone can return at night to a warm, dry home without fear of damp and mould impacting on their health. It is commonly agreed that lifting standards and ensuring that everyone has a warm dry home is a good thing for improving life for New Zealanders and their families, as well as the obvious benefit of reducing some of the burden on our health system.
Of the almost 600,000 rental homes in New Zealand, nearly a quarter or 132,000 homes do not have a fixed-heating device, some are poorly ventilated and/or may have drainage or moisture ingress issues that need to be addressed.
From 1 July 2019 the installation of ceiling and under-floor insulation has become compulsory for all rental homes by law. As you may know, landlords had three years’ notice to prepare their properties to comply with the new legislation. By now they should all be insulated to the required standard. If they aren’t, these landlords run the risk of incurring stiff penalties of up to $4,000.00. Ouch.
At Lochore’s we’re proactive in managing these compliance standards for our property management clients and take pride in establishing a good relationship with both our tenants and landlords.
We are currently experiencing an influx of concerned landlords who want these compliance hassles addressed and their properties professionally managed. Property management fees are tax deductible and are small relative to the potential fines.
I have spoken to some landlords that are freaking out about the amount of red tape being imposed on them, however upon review of the new standards, they are not too onerous. In fact I believe they are both practical from a wellbeing point of view for tenants, but also may reduce maintenance costs in the long run for property owners.
If you’re currently a landlord, or are thinking about becoming a landlord, you’ll need to check or upgrade your property to ensure compliance with the next stage of Healthy Home Standards by 1 July 2021. Landlords have two years to work their way through the process so plenty of time to plan & act.
From 1 July 2021, private landlords and boarding houses must ensure that their rental properties comply with the standards within 90 days of any new tenancy. All Housing NZ homes and community houses must comply by 1 July 2023.
So what are these new July 2021 standards?
Rental homes must have fixed heating devices in living rooms which can warm rooms to at least 18°C. Such heaters include heat pumps or log burners; however in smaller apartments a small electric heater may be sufficient. Some heating devices are inefficient, unaffordable or unhealthy and will not meet the requirements under the heating standard. There is no requirement to install fixed heating devices in bedrooms, which can be heated by the tenants’ own portable heaters.
Rental homes must have ceiling and underfloor insulation which either meets the 2008 Building Code (for existing ceiling insulation) OR is at least 120mm thick and in reasonable condition.
Rental homes must have the right size extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms, and opening windows in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. (This may well reduce maintenance costs in the future such as painting etc).
Rental homes must have efficient drainage and guttering, downpipes and drains. If a home has an enclosed subfloor, it must have a ground moisture barrier (such as polythene) to prevent rising damp if it’s possible to install one.
Rental homes must have no unnecessary gaps or holes in walls, ceilings, windows, floors and doors that cause noticeable draughts. All unused chimneys and fireplaces must be blocked.
We highly recommend that landlords keep up with these new standards.
If a landlord has not complied with the July 2019 Healthy Homes Standards, first approach your landlord or dedicated property manager. If the issue is not resolved, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for mediation or a hearing. The Tribunal has the power to issue an order to a landlord that is legally binding to undertake work, and potentially fine for non-compliance. A landlord can’t evict a tenant for raising issues.
To find out more about the new Healthy Homes Standards check out the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development website: https://www.hud.govt.nz/residential-housing/healthy-rental-homes/healthy-homes-standards/
To find out more about your rights and responsibilities as a landlord or tenant, as well as for guidance on common tenancy issues, visit the Tenancy Services website: https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/