What are the new Healthy Homes Standards rules? When do they take effect? How do they affect you?
You will have heard a lot of news and discussion about the Healthy Homes Standards affecting rental properties in New Zealand. We thought we’d break down some of the information to make it easier for you to understand your expectations and responsibilities, whether you are a property investor or tenant. While none of these new requirements is hugely expensive on its own. (Insulation should already be installed), when you add them all together, they can add up to quite a lot when all done at once.
What are the Healthy Homes Standards?
The Healthy Homes Standards are a series of regulations that form part of the “Residential Tenancies (Healthy Homes Standards) Regulations 2019” introduced by the New Zealand government. They introduce specific and minimum standards for rental properties around key areas such as:
- Moisture ingress and drainage
- Draught stopping
Below we will summarise key points you may need to know about the Healthy Homes Standards if you are a property investor or tenant. If you would like to do more of your own research. You can find thorough and up-to-date information about the standards on the Tenancy Services website. As well as the website of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
Feel free to refer to these websites for more details. And, as always, we’re more than happy to help you understand and interpret the information you find there.
An overview of the key areas that may affect you and your property/properties:
All rental properties must have fixed heaters, which can heat the main living room and meet a required heating capacity. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum indoor temperature of 18C. By installing heating that can reach this temperature on the coldest days of the year. Tenants will be able to keep warm all year round. Certain heating devices, such as plug-in heaters, will not meet the requirements. A Heating Assessment Tool provided at tenancy.govt.nz/heating-tool can be used to check the size of the heater you need. The total volume of air in the living room is measured (including hallways or stairwells off the living area that don’t have doors to separate them) to calculate the size of the fixed heater needed.
Insulation stops heat from escaping the house. In general, the better insulated a home is, the more it will retain the heat that your heat pump is generating. Proper insulation and ventilation (see next paragraph) will mean the property will be drier and less prone to mould. Your investment property will already have ceiling and underfloor insulation. As they have been compulsory in all rental homes since 1 July 2019. Underfloor insulation needs a minimum R-value of 1.3. Existing ceiling insulation may need to be topped up or replaced if it is not in a reasonable condition. In most situations, existing ceiling insulation needs to be at least 120mm thick. Always do more than the minimum, as the minimum requirements have increased frequently over the last decade.
Each room must have at least one door or window (including skylights) that opens to the outside. Get your measuring tape and calculator out, as the openable windows and doors must have a total area of at least 5% of the floor area in each room. The windows or doors must be able to be fixed in the open position. All kitchens and bathrooms must have an extractor fan that ventilates externally even if there hasn’t been one previously, no matter how old the kitchen is.
Moisture seeping into a house can be a significant source of dampness. Your investment property needs to have all gutters and downpipes running clear. And all surface water draining away from the house into the appropriate gullies. If the rental property has an enclosed subfloor – for example, with a concrete ring foundation). A ground moisture barrier must be installed if it is reasonably practicable to do so.
Draughts are the most common reason we see properties failing their healthy home tests. Predominantly where there are existing wooden windows and wooden doors. Repairing these requires hinges to be realigned and draught, excluding products installed around windows and doors. Adding these features will increase the likelihood that the heat generated by your new heat pump will stay in the house. Fixing draughts is an easy way to reduce heating bills and keep rental homes warm and dry. Gaps and holes in walls, ceilings, windows, floors and doors that cause noticeable draughts that can be easily sealed. All unused open fireplaces must be blocked unless the tenant specifically requests otherwise and the landlord agrees.
When do the Healthy Homes Standards come into effect?
Some parts of the legislation have already kicked in. Such as certain clauses being required in all tenancy agreements. The following key past and future dates are important for residential property investors:
The Government passed the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act 2017. This Act amends the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 and enables standards to be made to make rental homes warmer and drier.
1 July 2019:
The Healthy Homes Standards became law.
From 1 July 2019:
Ceiling and underfloor insulation are compulsory in all rental homes where it is reasonably practicable to install.
Landlords must sign a statement of intent to comply with the Healthy Homes Standards in any new, varied or renewed tenancy agreement.
From 1 December 2020:
Landlords must include a statement of their current level of compliance with the Healthy Homes Standards in most new and renewed tenancy agreements.
From 1 July 2021:
Private residential landlords must ensure their rental properties comply with the Healthy Homes Standards within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy.
1 July 2024:
All private rental homes must comply with the Healthy Homes Standards.
How do the Healthy Homes Standards affect me?
It is an expectation that property investors maintain and upgrade the quality of their rental properties. Regular upkeep on a well-maintained property is always more cost-effective than repair work to a poorly looked after one.
Tenants are potentially more likely to stay longer in properties that are dry, warm, well insulated.
Have a question about the Healthy Homes Standards? Get in touch with us at Copo. We can also tell you who we use for our Healthy Homes Assessments. We’re here to help!