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Healthy Homes Standards: what every private landlord needs to know


 

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Download the Healthy Homes Standards guide

What are the Healthy Homes Standards? Why were they introduced?

The Healthy Homes Standards are a new set of regulations that outline new minimum home standards for rental properties. The law came into effect on 1 July 2019.

Why? The majority of New Zealand (NZ) rental properties do not have the same living standards as owner-occupied homes. There’s a quality gap. There are over 588,000 renting households in New Zealand and a significant proportion of these homes are damp and cold1. Research from BRANZ has found that rental properties are twice as likely than owner-occupied houses to smell damp and nearly three times as likely to feel damp. 

Cold, damp and mouldy homes lead to poorer health outcomes. And it’s costing us. Research from the University of Otago found that poor housing causes preventable injuries and illnesses that cost New Zealand over $145 million every year.

The Healthy Homes Standards seek to address this.

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When will private landlords have to meet the standards?

From 1 July 2021, if you start or renew a tenancy, your rental property must meet the Healthy Home Standards (HHS) within 90 days of signing on the tenants.

However, as of 1 July 2019, you must begin keeping records to show you are complying with the new standards. Your tenancy agreements must also include a statement of intent to comply with the new HHS and a separate sheet stating what type of insulation your rental property has and where it is. 

Key dates

Landlords must:

1 July 2019

  • Have ceiling and underfloor insulation installed (within reason).
  • State what type of insulation their rental property has, and where, in their tenancy agreements. 
  • Supply a statement of intent to comply with the HHS with any new, renewed or amended tenancy agreements.
  • Start keeping records to show they comply or intend to comply with the HHS.

1 July 2020

  • State what type of insulation their rental property has, and where, in their tenancy agreements. 

1 July 2024

  • All rental properties must comply with HHS.

 

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What do the new Healthy Home Standards mean for landlords?

While many landlords make an effort to provide comfortable, liveable homes, some don’t. By introducing the Healthy Home Standards, the New Zealand Government is making its stance quite clear: cold, damp and mouldy homes are not fit as rental properties.

The result: landlords must ensure their properties meet new minimum standards for:

 

As a landlord, it is easy to take a negative view of the new standards. However, there is an upside for landlords who comply. Their properties will not only be warmer, drier and safer, and therefore more appealing to tenants—particularly long-term ones—but the cost of property maintenance will likely be less in the long run. Damp and mouldy homes can cost when it comes to maintenance—whether it is repairing damage from leaks, replacing mouldy carpet, or cleaning and repainting mouldy walls—those costs add up. In one news story, Housing New Zealand reported spending an additional $10,000 to rectify the damage in a state home caused by condensation and subsequent mould. 

What do I need to do to comply right now?

As of 1 July, 2019, residential rental properties must be rented out with underfloor and ceiling insulation that meets the minimum R-value for the climate zone the property is in. As a landlord, you must make sure your property complies with these minimums within 90 days of a new, renewed or amended tenancy agreement.

Read more on the insulation requirements and the R-values of each zone.

Statement of insulation quality – required now

As part of your tenancy agreement, you must supply documentation that states the type, location and condition of the insulation in the walls, ceiling and underfloor of your rental property. 

If you manage your own property and tenancy agreements, here’s a template you can use. Important! A tenancy agreement is a legal document. We always recommend seeking expert advice specific to your circumstances. 

Statement of intent to comply – required now

In addition to your insulation statement, you must also declare that you comply or intend to comply with the Healthy Homes Standards by the required dates

Failure to include and sign this statement from 1 July may result in a financial penalty of up to $500.

If you manage your own property and your tenancy agreements, here’s a template of the statement you can use.

Important! A tenancy agreement is a legal document. We always recommend seeking expert advice specific to your circumstances.

At Lodge Real Estate, our property managers are committed to helping landlords prepare these documents and ensuring they accommodate the new standards. 

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Are any rental properties exempt from the Healthy Homes Standards?

There are three broad exemptions. 

1. Plans to demolish or rebuild

If you have plans to demolish or extensively rebuild your rental property, you may be exempt from meeting the Healthy Homes Standards compliance dates. However, you must have applied for the relevant resource and building consent before the HHS deadline. 

Exemption period: 12 months

However, if your pending resource and building consent is denied, you have 90 days to comply with the HHS. If your resource consent lapses, your exemption will cease and you must comply with the HHS as soon as reasonably possible.

2. Previous owner turned tenant

If you have just bought the property and the previous owner has immediately become your tenant (e.g. they are renting their old home from you until they purchase a new property to move into), you may be exempt from meeting the compliance dates of the Healthy Homes Standards.

Exemption period: 12 months. 

3. If a landlord does not own the entire building (i.e. an apartment)

If your rental property is part of a greater structure, such as an apartment in a block of flats, you may be partially exempt from HHS if:

  • you need to install or provide something in a part of the building where you are not the sole owner, or
  • you need access to a part of the building that you are not the sole owner of.

 

However, you must make sure you take all reasonable steps to comply in the first instance.

Exemptions to specific standards?

There are also specific exemptions to the new heating, insulation, ventilation and moisture and drainage standards. 

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Minimum heating standard

 

One or more fixed heaters that can directly heat the main living room and maintain a temperature of 18 degrees Celsius.

Why 18 degrees?

This is the recommended minimum indoor temperature recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Compliance deadline?

As of 1 July 2021 private rentals must meet this standard within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy. By 1 July 2024, all private rentals must comply. 

What type of heating is required?

The heater(s) must be fixed (not portable), and provide at least 1.5 kW heating capacity. Landlords cannot use an electric heater (except a heat pump) if the required heating capacity for the main living room is over 2.4 kW.

Appropriate heaters include a heat pump, wood burner, pellet burner or flued gas heater. 

*Important note: Heat pumps and electric heaters must have a thermostat.

What size heater do I need?

Use the online heating assessment tool.

You can use additional heaters to ‘top up’ your heating to meet the new standards. However, you must meet all these conditions:

  • you installed your existing heating before 1 July 2019.
  • the required heating capacity is more than 2.4 kW.
  • the ‘top up’ you need is 1.5 kW or less.

 

Types of heaters that don’t comply

  • Open fire.
  • Any form of unflued combustion heater.
  • Heat pumps and electric heaters that do not have a thermostat.
  • Portable heaters.

What classes as a living room?

The Healthy Homes Standards defines a living room as the largest room used for general everyday living. This can include lounge rooms, dining rooms, sitting rooms and family rooms as well as multi-use spaces, such as open-plan kitchen/lounges. 

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Minimum insulation standard

 

Insulation requirements have changed in recent years and the Healthy Homes Standards builds on these. 

What’s changed since the 2016 Residential Tenancies Act?

If you upgraded your underfloor and ceiling insulation since the 2016 Residential Tenancies Act, chances are you’re already compliant with the 2008 Building Code and the HHS. However, it is important to check that the insulation is still in reasonable condition.

However, landlords who didn’t previously need to insulate under the 2016 Residential Tenancies Act, may need to now. 

Here are the key differences:

2016 Residential Tenancies Act insulation requirements:

  • Ceiling insulation must be at least 70mm thick, be in reasonable condition, and meet the minimum R-value for its zone at the time it was installed (e.g. if the insulation was installed in 2002, it must meet the 2002 minimum R-value).
  • Underfloor insulation meets a minimum R-value of 0.9.

 

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Healthy Homes Standards insulation requirements:

  • Ceiling insulation must be at least 120mm thick, be in reasonable condition, and meet the 2008 Building Code’s minimum R-value for its zone.
  • Underfloor insulation meets a minimum R-value of 1.3.

 

If you need to replace or ‘top up’ your insulation to meet the new standards, you have until 1 July 2021 to do so. 

Still not sure? Check out Tenancy Services online insulation tool.

What insulation is required under the 2008 Building Code?

  • Zone 1: Northland and Auckland—ceiling R 2.9, underfloor R 1.3.
  • Zone 2: Waikato to Wellington (excluding Central Plateau)—ceiling R 2.9, underfloor R 1.3.
  • Zone 3: Central Plateau and all of South Island—ceiling R 3.3, underfloor R 1.3.

 

What is meant by “reasonable condition”?

The HHS defines reasonable condition as insulation that is installed in accordance with NZS4246:2016 and has no mould, dampness, damage or gaps.

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Minimum ventilation standard

 

Poor ventilation can cause mould and dampness, which can lead to health problems for tenants. Because of this, the Healthy Home Standards have introduced new ventilation minimums. These are:

  • All habitable rooms must have a window, door or skylight that opens to the outside. 
  • The size of the opening must be at least 5% of the floor area of the room. 
  • The window, door or skylight must be designed to stay open on its own as required (i.e. does not need someone to hold it open).
  • All kitchens and bathrooms must have an extractor fan that vents to the outside
    • Kitchens: A minimum diameter of 150mm or an exhaust capacity of at least 50 litres per second.
    • Bathrooms: A minimum diameter of 120mm or an exhaust capacity of at least 25 litres per second.

 

What if I already have an exhaust fan, but it doesn’t meet requirements?

The most important element of the new ventilation standards is that exhaust fans vent outside. 

If you installed an exhaust fan before 1 July 2019 that vents outside, but doesn’t meet the other requirements, you can continue to use it. 

However, when they stop working, you must repair it to good working order, or replace it with a fan that does meet all the requirements. 

Ventilation systems that don’t comply

  • Positive pressure systems that draw from the roof cavity rather than outside. 
  • Heat transfer systems.

 

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Minimum moisture and drainage standard

Moisture not only causes damage, but it is harmful to tenant health. Because of this, the Healthy Homes Standards have set new minimums for the drainage of stormwater, surface water and groundwater. 

Under these new standards, rental properties must have:

  • Efficient drainage for the removal of stormwater, surface water and groundwater, including an appropriate outfall (e.g. soak holes, channel and stormwater drains). 
  • Gutters, downpipes and drains for the removal of water from the roof.
  • A ground moisture barrier if the property has an enclosed sub-floor space.

 

All private rentals must comply within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy after 1 July 2021, with all private rentals complying by 1 July 2024.

What is an enclosed subfloor cavity?

A subfloor is the structural part of the floor of your property upon which your decorative floor rests—underlay and carpet, wooden floorboards, tiles, linoleum and vinyl. A subfloor is usually either a stump-style with the plywood laid over the top or a concrete slab. The cavity is the space below the subfloor. 

When is a subfloor considered “enclosed”?

A subfloor is considered enclosed when the airflow in and out of the subfloor space is obstructed by: 

  • a masonry foundation wall.
  • other claddings such as cement board or a solid timber skirt.
  • attached structures, such as a garage or carport.
  • earth.
  • any other solid obstruction to airflow. 

A space is not “enclosed” if three or more of its sides are open, has trellis cladding or continuous slots between baseboards.

What is a ground moisture barrier?

A ground moisture barrier is essentially a groundsheet, usually made of polythene. You can lay it over exposed earth underneath your property to reduce moisture, mould and rising damp in the home. Extra bonus: it also makes a property easier to heat!

Read more here.

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Minimum draught-stopping standard

Drafty homes are difficult and expensive to heat to the minimum 18 degrees Celsius as outlined by the World Health Organisation and the new Healthy Homes Standards. 

Under the minimum draught-stopping standard, rental properties must:

  • Block unused open fireplaces.
  • Not have gaps in walls, ceilings, windows, skylights, floors and doors (within reason).

 

All private rentals must comply within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy after 1 July 2021, with all private rentals complying by 1 July 2024.

What do I need to block or fill a gap?

From 1 August 2019, landlords will need to address all “noticeable” draughts. The Healthy Homes Standards are yet to announce what constitutes a noticeable draught and release maximum gap guidelines.

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How is Lodge helping landlords navigate the new standards?

Currently, the Healthy Homes Standards is in its infancy and many of its processes are still being ironed out. The government has recently advised that a healthy homes assessment inspection must be undertaken to report on whether a property is compliant or not. If a property is non-compliant, landlords are expected to make it so.

"Some landlords may see this as yet another cost added to the business of being a property owner. Lodge understands this and we are working hard to keep the costs down for you," says Jason Waugh, Branch Manager at Lodge City Rentals.

"We are pleased to say that we have negotiated a discount for these assessments at  $240 + GST per property, with  a further discount for multi unit complexes," Jason says. "This cost will cover the visit to the property and the full written report from an appropriately qualified independent contractor.

"For properties requiring remediation to meet the standards—particularly the new heating standards—we will be negotiating bulk discount deals also."
 

Navigating change isn’t always easy, which is why our property managers are also helping landlords to:

  • Prepare their insulation statements, now required in tenancy agreements.
  • Prepare their Intent to Comply statements, now required in tenancy agreements.

 

"Lodge is committed to helping landlords ensure their properties are fit for purpose and meet all the requirements as and when needed," says Jason.

 

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Want a take-home version of this guide? Download a free copy here!

Download the Healthy Homes Standards guide

 

1.  Hud.govt.nz. Cabinet paper: Release of discussion document - Healthy Homes Standards, 2019.

2. BRANZ. SR372 Warm, dry, healthy?,  2017.

3. Tenancy.govt.nz, 2019