The Healthy Homes Standards aim to make a significant change to the quality of New Zealand rental homes. We are well on our way to achieving a fully compliant rental portfolio for our six offices across Otago.
Are you a landlord? Do you know what the Healthy Homes Standards means for your property? As at 1 December 2020 all new, varied or renewed tenancy agreements must include specific information about a property’s current level of compliance with the Healthy Homes Standards – called a Compliance Statement which covers the following;
A fixed heating device must be installed that can achieve a temperature of at least 18 degrees Celsius on the coldest of days. This temperature is a standard recommended by the World Health Organisaton for the minimum indoor temperature. It is important to note that this requirement is only for the living room of the property.
It is anticipated that in most cases the fixed heater will be a heat-pump or wood burner for the larger living rooms, however a fixed electric heater may be enough for smaller rooms. If you have existing heating at your property, it may not meet the new standards if it’s inefficient, unaffordable or unhealthy to run. Examples of these are un-flued gas heaters, open fires and electric heaters (excluding heat pumps) – depending upon home size and the number of heaters provided.
Properties managed by Harcourts are set to meet the 2016 insulation requirements by the 1st July 2019 deadline. However, under the new insulation standard, there is a new group of rental homes affected. The minimum level of ceiling and underfloor insulation must now either meet the 2008 Building Code, or for existing ceiling insulation, have a minimum thickness of 120mm. These affected rental homes will already have approximately 70-120mm of ceiling insulation, so the requirement is to increase this to a minimum of 120mm where required. Adequate insulation provides health benefits through minimising heat loss and is key to maintaining a warm, dry and healthy home.
Ventilation is an important factor in preventing mould which can result in respiratory illnesses and worsening asthma. If that isn’t bad enough, mould can damage properties and belongings. Under the new standards, all kitchens and bathrooms must have mechanical extract ventilation. In addition, all living rooms, dining, kitchen and bedrooms must have windows that can be opened. The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) is calling for the Government to make an exemption for shower-steam domes, arguing that these are cheaper and quicker to install than an extractor fan and don’t have an ongoing cost to run. Harcourts works closely with REINZ and will ensure that we are abreast of any changes to this standard.
Moisture Ingress and Drainage Standard
Properties must have adequate drainage and guttering, downpipes and drains. If there is an enclosed subfloor, it must have a ground moisture barrier (if possible to install) that will protect the home from rising moisture.
Draught Stopping Standard
We can insulate and heat our houses; however, this is ineffective if we do nothing to prevent draughts. Guidelines will be made available as to how we can best prevent draughts, however the standard states that landlords must stop any unnecessary gaps or holes in the walls, fan and don’t have an ongoing cost to run. Harcourts works closely with REINZ and will ensure that we are abreast of any changes to this standard.
You can find more information about the Healthy Homes Standards on the Tenancy Services website https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/healthy-homes/
How to acquire your Compliance Statement
Compliance statements will be required for new or renewed tenancies from 1 December. However, landlords who don’t have the right information on file when a tenant gives notice may not have enough time to get a property inspected, and the compliance statement prepared, without leaving the property vacant in order to get the report done.
We recommend that landlords get qualified tradespeople to complete the required checks and supply a report with the information for each standard. These reports include which standards a property may already meet, and what work is required to meet all other standards, if any. These reports do incur a cost, but when measuring rooms, checking ducting in ceilings, checking the condition and installation of insulation and ground moisture barriers is required, it is a cost that guarantees peace of mind and a plan to meet the healthy homes standards.
It is important to note that this work is outside of the scope of most property managers, and professionals will be required.
Landlords who don’t have the information required to complete the compliance statement should consider hiring a professional to do this on their behalf. Any mistakes could be costly, and with the 1 July 2021 deadline to meet all standards for new or renewed tenancies only one year away, a clear plan is needed.
We anticipate that savvy tenants will be asking to have these requirements met when looking for new rental accommodation. Smart property investors will want their property to be attractive to prospective tenants and/or retain their existing tenants and will therefore be planning to meet these standards before July 2021.