Healthy Homes Standards - How do they affect me?

Photo: Four Colourful Houses, by Jeffrey Czum

The Healthy Homes legislation has become law on the 1st July 2019. Private landlords will now have just over two years to meet new standards. We have summarised the new requirements to explain what it all means for NZ landlords.

Why has the Government introduced new requirements?

New Zealand government has introduced the Healthy Homes Standards to tackle health problems caused by underinsulated, old, damp and cold properties (of which NZ has many). The aim is to achieve warmer, drier homes by providing clear minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, draught stopping, moisture ingress and drainage in rental properties.

It's important to remember that this act is already law. The guidance documents are expected to be published on Tenancy Services' website in July 2019.

When do I need to be compliant by?

  • From 1 July 2019 - All landlords must state in new tenancy agreements that they will comply with new Healthy Homes regulations as required by the Residential Tenancies Act 1986.
    This also applies to renewals and written variations to agreements.

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

  • From 1 July 2020 - All new and renewed tenancy agreements will need to include the signed statement that landlord will comply with the new regulations AND outline specific information on how the landlord intends to comply (a template of compliance statement will become available at a later date)
  • From 1 July 2021 - All landlords have to comply with Healthy Homes changes for new tenants.
  • From 1 July 2024 - All rental homes must comply with the Healthy Homes Standards.

Remember that all five standards (heating, insulation, ventilation, draught stopping and moisture ingress and drainage) come into effect at the same time.

Healthy Homes Standards breakdown

More detailed regulations are coming but here's what the standards currently specify:

Heating

A fixed heating device capable of warming the room to at least 18°C needs to be installed in the main living room only.

  • By 'living room' the standard also covers a lounge, dining room, sitting room or an open plan living area.
  • The 'main living room' is the largest living room.
  • Only the main living room requires heating.
  • A landlord will not be required to provide a heater for tenants' bedrooms.
  • Some heaters are considered inefficient, unaffordable to operate or unhealthy to meet the standard and so won't meet the requirements (e.g. LPG bottle heaters, open fires and electric heaters (not heat pumps) with heating capacity more than 2.4 kilowatts)
  • The online heating tool will be developed by Tenancy Services to help landlords identify what capacity heater is required for their rental property.

If a landlord installed a heater before 1 July 2019 as long as the heating capacity is within 10% of the kilowatts required, the device will meet the standard.

Insulation

Both ceiling and underfloor insulation should meet the minimum of the 2008 Building Code or (for existing ceiling insulation) to be at least 120mm thick

  • Existing 2016 RTA regulation requires all rental properties (with accessible ceilings and underfloors) to be insulated by 30 June 2019.
  • After 1 July 2021 the Healthy Homes Standards increase the minimum insulation requirement from 70mm to 120mm thick.

Existing insulation may meet the standard — or not

  • If your property was not insulated and you had to put fresh insulation in to meet the 2016 standards, you're likely to comply with new standards (Safe to check it still)
  • If your property was already insulated and you didn't need to do anything to meet the 2016 standards, you need to check the insulation to make sure it's at least 120mm thick. If not, the property requires a "top up".
  • If your insulation meets new standards, it still needs to be in reasonable condition (check for damage, dampness, rips, gaps in the coverage, contamination etc)
  • If the property has an inaccessible roof or a concrete pad, an insulation exemption will continue to apply.

You absolutely can install insulation yourself although Tenancy Services recommends using qualified installers to ensure compliance.

Ventilation

All rental properties should have opening doors and windows in dining rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, kitchen and other living spaces.
A right size extractor fans should be installed in all kitchens and bathrooms.

  • If there are multiple bathrooms and kitchens, an appropriate size extractor fans are needed to be installed in all rooms.
  • An extractor fan needs to ventilate externally
  • If there is a shower dome in the bathroom, an extractor fan is still needed to be installed.
  • A range hood in the kitchen can be suitable if it ventilates to the outside.
  • The openable windows and doors in a room must have a total area of 5% of the floor area in their respective rooms.
  • There will be a guidance document developed by the Government to help landlords to comply.

There is an exemption to this rule for bathrooms and kitchens where it's not reasonably practicable to install an extractor fan. There is another exemption to properties that were lawfully built but don't have an openable window or door in one of the rooms.

Moisture and drainage

There needs to be efficient drainage and guttering, downpipes and drains. If a rental home has an enclosed subfloor, it must have a ground moisture barrier if it's reasonably practicable to install one.

Draught-stopping

Rental properties must have no unnecessary gaps or holes in walls, ceilings, windows, floors, and doors that cause noticeable draughts.
All unused chimneys and fireplaces must be blocked.

  • All the open fireplaces and chimneys must be blocked unless a landlord and tenant agree otherwise.
  • A guidance document will be provided on what kinds of gaps this standard will cover.

Keeping records

A landlord needs to ensure their rental properties meet the standards by the deadline. However, regardless of any work required, a landlord also needs to keep records of how they're complying with the Healthy Homes Standards. These records may include:
- compliance certificates
- records of calculations
- invoices from builders
- receipts for materials purchased
- product manuals etc
These records can be presented to the Tenancy Tribunal or the Tenancy Compliance and Investigation Team when resolving potential disputes.

The information contained in this article is exclusively for promotional purposes. It does not in any way constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as the basis for any legal action or contractual dealings. The information is not and does not attempt to be, a comprehensive account of the relevant law in New Zealand. If you require legal advice, you should seek independent legal counsel. myRent.co.nz does not accept any liability that may arise from the use of this information.

Advertise a property

The low cost, hassle-free way of finding
great tenants.

List my property Learn more

Manage a tenancy

$10 for rent collection, agreements,
bonds, renewals, maintenance, & more.

Get set up Learn more