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In February 2019 the Government announced the new Healthy Homes Standards. These standards will become law on 1 July 2019, and aim to improve heating, insulation, ventilation and drainage, reduce moisture and stop draughts.The ultimate aim of the new standards is to improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders and their families. It is said that over half a million families rent their property in New Zealand and it seems the quality of these rental homes are not up to standard, especially compared to owner-occupied homes.
At the end of the day, it will be in everyone’s best interests to improve the quality of all homes, which will in turn lower medical costs and lower the levels of hospitalisations. In addition to this, warmer drier homes will most likely lead to better protecting a landlord’s investment property, as the property would be least susceptible to issues relating to mould or mildew damage.
So, what does this mean for landlords?
For landlords, this means that they will need to meet the new requirements in regard to heating, insulation, ventilation, issues regarding moisture, drainage, and draught stopping, to ensure their properties comply with the new standards by the given deadlines and avoid heavy penalties.
Below is a breakdown of the minimum required standards that need to be met as per the healthy home standards:
Heating – There must be fixed heating devices, capable of achieving a minimum temperature of at least 18°C in the living room only. Some heating devices are inefficient, unaffordable or unhealthy and will not meet the requirements under the heating standard.
Insulation – The minimum level of ceiling and underfloor insulation must either meet the 2008 Building Code, or (for existing ceiling insulation) have a minimum thickness of 120mm.
Ventilation – Ventilation must include openable windows in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. Also, an appropriately sized extractor fan(s) in rooms with a bath or shower or indoor cooktop.
Moisture ingress and drainage – Landlords must ensure efficient drainage and guttering, downpipes and drains. If a rental property has an enclosed subfloor, it must have a ground moisture barrier if it’s possible to install one.
Draught stopping – Landlords must stop any unnecessary gaps or holes in walls, ceilings, windows, floors, and doors that cause noticeable draughts. All unused chimneys and fireplaces must be blocked.
The case at hand is that the majority of current landlords and owners are not aware of what standards have actually been met and which points need attention. The points need to be addressed as there may be steep penalties incurred for non-compliance.
How much time do landlords have to comply with the new standards?
With the first point of action coming into effect July 1st 2019, landlords must ensure they meet the new requirements by the following timeframes:
By 1st July 2019
• Ceiling and underfloor insulation will be compulsory in all rental homes where it is reasonably practicable to install.
• Tenancy agreements must include a separately signed insulation statement that covers what insulation the home has, where it is, and what type.
• Landlords must include a statement of intent to comply with the Healthy Homes Standards in any new, varied or renewed tenancy agreement.
• Landlords must begin keeping records that demonstrate compliance with any Healthy Homes Standards that apply or will apply during the tenancy.
By 1st July 2020
• Landlords must include a statement of their current level of compliance with the Healthy Homes Standards in any new, varied or renewed tenancy agreement.
By 1st July 2021
• Private landlords must ensure their rental properties comply with the Healthy Homes Standards within 90 days of any new, or renewed, tenancy.
• All boarding houses (except Housing New Zealand and Community Housing Provider boarding house tenancies) must comply with the Healthy Homes Standards.
By 1st July 2023
• All Housing New Zealand houses and registered Community Housing Provider houses must comply with the Healthy Homes Standards.
By 1st July 2024
• All rental homes must comply with the Healthy Homes Standards.
Once again, Clarke Group Property Management can assist landlords in this regard – after building great relationships with reputable maintenance companies we can assist in any assessments and upgrades needed.
We don’t recommend landlords waiting until the last minute to upgrade their properties, as if the demand increases so will the costs, and you risk the chances of receiving big penalties for non-compliance if you fail to meet the deadlines.
In saying that, we understand that a probable leading factor on the delay of actions by landlords is the pinch that this has on the pocket, as it could prove costly depending on which standards need to be improved. There are solutions to this. Auckland Council is suggesting landlords apply for financial assistance where the cost for upgrading their rental properties will be added to their rates, thus lessening the burden of a large initial outlay.
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