Healthy Homes Standards were drafted to improve the conditions of rental properties in NZ. According to research, nearly 600,000 households in New Zealand rent, and these properties are in poorer conditions than owner-occupied homes.
Damp, mouldy homes that are not insulated sufficiently adversely affect the health of their occupants. This is especially true for the young, old, those with heart conditions,and respiratory diseases like asthma. The Healthy Homes Standards were announced in Feb 2019 and has been designed to create healthier housing for all in NZ. It addresses issues like insulation and heating requirements of the property, the ventilation available, measures to deal with moisture ingress, drainage requirements and draught prevention.
These upgraded standards for rental homes were passed into law on 1st July, 2019 to improve conditions in rental homes. It is hoped that this will reduce health risks, hospitalisation levels and medical costs among renters. It also benefits landlords as these measures help keep their properties in better shape.
Standards that NZ rental homes or properties need to comply with
- The property needs to have a heating device in the main living area that is capable of maintaining a temperature of at least 18 degree Celsius. This device should not be less than 1.5 kw and not be greater than 2.4 kw.
- The house needs to have windows that can be opened in the bedrooms, the kitchen, the dining room and in the living room. The bathroom and kitchen should be fitted with extractor fans with a capacity to properly cater to that space.
- Unused fireplaces and chimneys need to be closed off and blocked respectively. Any holes or excessively large gaps in the walls, floors, ceilings, skylights or even doors need to be removed or closed. These could otherwise lead to draughts.
- Insulation in the ceiling and underfloor must be present and need to meet the Building Code insulation standard (2008). If there is already existing insulation in the ceiling, it needs to be a minimum thickness of 120 mm.
- A ground moisture barrier needs to be installed to stop moisture from getting into homes that have an enclosed subfloor space.
- To ensure efficient surface water, groundwater and stormwater removal, adequate drainage measures should be installed.
Deadlines to comply with Healthy Homes Standards
- From 1st July 2020, tenancy agreements need to include details that explain the degree to which the property complies with Healthy Home Standards. This is so that both tenants and landlords are aware of the rules before compliance is required. To help landlords understand their obligations as per the new standards, an online tool has been provided.
- From 1st July 2021, landlords need to ensure that their properties comply with the Healthy Homes Standards within 90 days of a new tenancy. It is required that all boarding houses comply with Healthy Homes Standards as well.
- The 1st July 2023 is the last date for registered Community Housing Providers and All Housing New Zealand properties to comply with these standards. Finally, by 1st July, 2024 all rental homes need to comply with Healthy Homes Standards.
General exemptions from complying with the Healthy Homes Standards or the HHS are applicable if:
- As a landlord, you want to rebuild or demolish a big part of your rental property and you have applied for the necessary building consent before the compliance date for the HHS. In this case, the exemption is valid for about a year from the HHS compliance date but could end earlier if the consent obtained is terminated or is left to lapse. You should keep evidence of your application for the consent and produce it if requested.
- The rental property owned by the landlord is only part of the building and he/she does not own the entire building. For instance, if the property in question is an apartment, the landlord may not be able to comply with certain aspects of the HHS because he or she cannot install something in an area where he or she is not the sole owner (or have access to).
- The tenant is the former owner of the property and if the tenancy began just after the landlord took over the property from the tenant. Then an exemption is applicable for 12 months, beginning from the same date that the tenancy commences.
Relevant documents for record keeping
Records like compliance certificates or tenancy agreements may be requested by bodies like the Tenancy Tribunal, investigations teams or Tenancy Compliance. If landlords are not able to produce these documents on request without a good reason for not being able to do so, it is considered to beunlawful. The timeframe to produce records on request is 10 working days counted from the date that the request was made.
This is why it’s a good idea to keep all documents that prove compliance including the Code Compliance certificate, receipts or invoices from any installation or renovation work you had done on the rental property as well as photographic evidence. Other key documents include Building Information Reports and evaluation reports from qualified persons like a Licenced Building Practitioner.
If you would like further advice on the latest requirements, and the best ways to meet them for your specific properties we advise speaking to Morison Property. They are very professional and knowledgeable, and offer great services and competitive rates. If you choose to use them as property managers they can organise any upgrades for you and know exactly what the requirements are and who best to use to get the work done to a high standard and quickly, before you put in tenants.
They can also advise you before you buy a property, and have a look at whether it will meet the latest standards, to be rentable as an investment for you. Then manage that property for you so you don’t have to worry about anything, and can ensure you have suitable tenants, your rent is paid and your property is in safe hands. To find out more about property management visit morisonproperty.nz.