New Healthy Homes Standards
We’ve all seen the stories in the news recently about the new insulation requirements for rental properties. But how did these requirements come about and what else does a landlord have to do?
There are almost 600,000 rental properties in New Zealand and research has shown that these properties are poorer quality than owner-occupied homes. These homes are often older, damp, cold and mouldy which can cause health issues for people living in them like asthma and heart problems. In turn, these health issues drive up the country’s medical costs and result in higher levels of hospitalisation putting strain on the health system.
The previous National government amended the Residential Tenancies Act in 2016 by requiring all rental properties to have underfloor and ceiling insulation installed by 1 July 2019. The new Labour government’s Healthy Homes Guarantee Act went a step further by providing legislation for MBIE to create specific minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, draught stopping, moisture ingress and drainage in rental properties. These standards were finalised and released earlier this year.
The 1 July 2019 deadline for installation of ceiling and underfloor insulation has passed. Landlords are now required to sign a ‘statement of intent’ that they will comply with the standards where a tenancy is new, varied or renewed. This is in addition to the existing requirement that the landlord must provide a statement detailing what insulation the property has, where it is located and what type of insulation it is. The Tenancy Services website has updated Tenancy Agreement forms that include these statements of intent and are available here. These statements must be provided to the tenant at the start or renewal of any tenancy.
For all new, varied or renewed tenancies from 1 July 2020, all landlords are required to provide a statement detailing their current level of compliance with the standards.
From 1 July 2021, all standards are required to be complied with, within 90 days, of the beginning, renewal or variation of any tenancy.
By 1 July 2024, all rental homes must comply with the standards.
There are a few general exemptions that Landlords can use as a reason to not comply with the new standards, and each standard has additional specific exemptions.
The general exemptions are:
- If the Landlord intends to demolish or rebuild the home within 12 months and has applied for the required resource and building consents;
- For 12 months from the date the tenancy starts, if the Tenant is the former owner of the home; and
- Where a property is part of a building which is not entirely owned by the Landlord (i.e., an apartment in an apartment building), the Landlord is partially exempt from parts of the standards.
Overview of Standards
Tenancy Agreements & Record Keeping
All landlords will be required to keep records that demonstrate their compliance with the standards.
Examples of the types of documents Landlords need to show compliance include receipts for building work, photographs of the installation of the materials and products, product manuals and warranties. It is also possible to have a relevant professional like a licensed building practitioner complete an evaluation of a rental property.
A Landlord must provide a fixed heating device which is capable of achieving a minimum temperature of 18° in the main living room only. Unacceptable heating devices include un-flued combustion heaters (i.e., portable LPG bottle heaters), open fires, heating devices less than 1.5kw or electric heaters that require more than 2.4kw (excluding heat pumps).
There are two specific exemptions from this standard. The first being where it is impractical to install a suitable heating device. The second exemption is for certified passive houses.
This standard requires all insulation to be equivalent to the 2008 Building Code for both underfloor and ceiling. Existing ceiling insulation must be a minimum of 120mm thick and in reasonable condition. This means existing insulation may require a top up to the new level within 90 days of a new tenancy starting.
A property may be exempt from this standard if it is impracticable to install (i.e., the roof cavity has insufficient space).
This standard is in two parts. The first applies to bedrooms, dining rooms, living rooms, lounges and other ‘habitable spaces’. These spaces require a door or window to open to the outside, and they must be able to be fixed in the open position.
The second applies to bathrooms and kitchens which requires these rooms to have an appropriately sized extractor fan.
There are two specific exemptions for this standard. A property can be exempt from the requirement to have openable windows and doors if the property was lawful at the time it was built. A property can also be exempt from having an extractor fan it it is not reasonably practicable for the installation to be completed.
The standards require the Landlord to stop any unreasonable gaps or holes in walls, windows, doors and floors that cause noticeable draughts. This also includes open fireplaces/chimneys if they are not used.
There are no specific exemptions for draught stopping.
If a landlord does not have to meet any of the standards because of an exemption, they are required to make a statement to that effect which includes details of which standard they are exempt from and how that exemption arises.
The Effect of Non-Compliance
Every Landlord has a legal requirement to comply with the standards within the specified timeframe, and a Tenant is able to hold the Landlord to account in complying with those standards.
If a Landlord does not meet the standards, a Tenant can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for either a work order, or a monetary order. A monetary order may be issued by the Tribunal of up to $4,000 which is usually paid to the Tenant. In awarding a monetary order, the Tribunal will look at the intention of the Landlord, the effect of non-compliance on the Tenant, the interest of both parties and the public interest. The Tribunal is also able to issue compensation for loss or damages caused by stress, humiliation and inconvenience suffered by the Tenant.
Detailed information and guidance can be found at Tenancy Services, however if you require assistance trying to navigate the standards we are able to provide this.
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