New Zealand’s final Healthy Homes Standards for rental homes have just been announced and will come into effect on July 1. The standards, which are available to read in full on the New Zealand Legislation website, set minimum requirements for rental housing with a focus on making homes warm, dry and generally healthier for tenants. With July 1 just around the corner, now is the time for all Property Managers to get up to speed with the requirements.

The Healthy Homes Standards (HHS) establish minimum requirements for heating, ventilation, insulation, moisture, drainage and preventing draughts from entering a rental property. These requirements are in line with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development’s mandate that all New Zealanders have the right to live in a home that is warm and dry.

The new standards in brief

  • All rental homes must have a heater that can heat the main living space to at least 18˚C on the coldest day.
  • Rental homes must have ceiling and underfloor insulation that:
    • Meets the 2008 Building Code insulation standard when installed, or
    • Has a minimum thickness of 120mm for existing insulation.
  • The kitchen and bathrooms must have extraction fans or rangehoods in place.
  • For rental properties with an enclosed subfloor space, property owners must install a ground moisture barrier to stop moisture rising into the home.
  • Any gaps that allow draughts to enter the home, making it harder to heat, will need to be sealed.

The standards also reinforce the existing law that states landlords must have adequate drainage and guttering to prevent water entering the home. Furthermore, the 2016 insulation requirements remain in force.

What is required from July 1 2019?

From July 1 2019, ceiling and underfloor insulation will be compulsory in all rental homes where it is practically reasonable to install. Landlords who fail to comply could incur a penalty of up to $4,000. Landlords with more than one property could face separate fines for each property that fails to comply.

The average cost for a professional installer to lay both ceiling and underfloor insulation is $3,400 + GST based on a 96sqm property. With the deadline rapidly approaching, insulation installers may book out quickly so it’s best that landlords act sooner rather than later.

Landlords who have installed new ceiling and underfloor insulation since 2016 would already meet the 2008 Building Code and therefore don’t have to do anything.

From 1 July 2019, landlords will also have to:

  • Maintain records that demonstrate compliance with any Healthy Homes Standards that apply or will apply during the tenancy, and
  • Include a separately signed statement of intent to comply with the Healthy Homes Standards in any new, varied or renewed Tenancy Agreement.

What do I need to do?

Let your landlords know about the new requirement and recommend they take action now. Use Maintenance Manager for your bulk email to landlords if you have it.

In addition, all new Tenancy Agreements must include a separately signed insulation statement that covers the type of insulation in a property and where it is.

Click here to download the Tenancy Services Residential Tenancy Agreement, which includes the new Insulation Statement or an Insulation Statement template to add to your Tenancy Agreement.

How do I explain the importance of complying?

Other than telling landlords the risk of being fined, explain that insulation helps keep their investment property warm and dry, making it more efficient to heat. When a rental home is warm and dry in winter, tenants avoid getting sick and are therefore more likely to stay in the property longer, reducing vacancy periods. Tell them also that it is good business practice for longer-term capital gain to protect an investment property by keeping it in good condition.

What is the compliance timeline?

While it will be a few years before all rental homes in New Zealand must comply with the Healthy Homes Standards in full (1 July 2024), a timeline has been established that sets out what needs to happen when. Click here and scroll down for the timeline.

The bottom line

Every tenant has a right to be safe at home. The most comprehensive way to ensure all-round safety for tenants and provide peace of mind for landlords and your agency is to have a professional PropertySafe Health & Safety Evaluation Report conducted.

The report encompasses 14 hazard groups and over 120 safety issues, including the requirements set down in the new Healthy Homes Standards. The scope of the report is guided by legislated requirements that are current, in discussion and retrospective. The scope is also continuously updated via statistics from hospital and general practice presentations and legal claims.

In short, a PropertySafe Health & Safety Evaluation Report alerts the property owner to all relevant safety risks and provides practical options to mitigate all those risks, making your job easier and protecting all parties.

Call PropertySafe on 1300 350 000 or click here to learn more about their professional safety inspections today.

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