Why most landlords are failing Healthy Homes inspections

27 July 2022

It’s no secret that the Healthy Homes Standards have been causing landlords a few headaches. We’ve been talking with our friends from Warm Fuzzies about HHS compliance and here's what they had to say:

As of 1 July 2019, all private rental properties must comply with these standards within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy. However, in 2021, a study of over 14,000 inspections showed that almost three-quarters of properties failed their inspections.

We’re here to break down the most common causes of failure and what you can do to prevent them.

Draughts are the number one culprit for failed inspections.

Draught stopping was the most common reason for failure in the 2021 study. Generally, gaps wider than 3mm in or around walls, ceilings, windows, doors and floors are prohibited and will cause a failure. Smaller gaps or gaps that allow a lot of cold air in may also fail an inspection.

When you’re checking for gaps, if a $2 coin fits into the space, it needs to be sealed. Check the junctions between walls and the floor/ceiling, windows, and the gaps between doors and the floor.

Other common causes of failure are poorly-fitted pet doors and open fireplaces (if they’re unused), so if a property has either of these, double check them before your next inspection.

If you have agreed with your tenant in writing that the fireplace will be left open, then that won’t cause a failure, but you must keep written documentation and treat this as part of your tenancy agreements.

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Insulation can also cause a lot of confusion.

Insulation is a tricky category as the requirements vary greatly, depending on:

  • location
  • type of home
  • date of installation.

The performance of insulation is measured by resistance (also called R-value), but the width of insulation is also a consideration.

If your insulation were installed before July 2016, its required R-value would be lower than if installed after. You can check the specific R-value requirements on this page.

The most common problem here is that insulation settles over time and loses thickness and resistance. Ceiling insulation that settles and compresses to 70% of its initial thickness, or below 120mm, is not considered to be in reasonable condition and must be replaced or topped up.

Another common issue that requires attention is moisture, especially if a property has extractor fans that vent into the roof space. All kitchen and bathroom ventilation must be externally ducted to the outside of the property - the roof cavity is no longer an acceptable exit point for ducting. The root cause of the moisture should always be addressed first before any repairs take place.

Because of the number of variables involved, we generally recommend getting a professional inspector in to assess insulation and find the most cost-effective way to bring a property up to compliance if it requires it.

Heating requirements are strict but have been updated.

Recently, the Government announced changes to heating requirements for homes built to the 2008 Building Code, and/or apartment buildings with three or more levels and six or more units in the complex. You can calculate if a home is compliant with heating standards using this calculator, which factors in the changes. Any properties that do not meet this criteria will still be subject to the original heating calculation.

In addition to this, if your home has been built or renovated to the 2008 Building Code, the tolerance for existing heating has been lowered from 90% to 80%. However, this is only a transitional exemption, meaning that when the existing heat pump reaches its end of life, the unit must be replaced with a new unit that meets the full calculated heat loss requirement.

If you have existing heating (installed prior to 1 July 2019) and there is a shortfall between the requirement and what is already installed, the new amendment allows for electric panel heaters to be used to top up IF the shortfall is 2.4kW or less. The panel heater must still meet the compliance criteria of being a minimum of 1.5kW, fixed to the wall of the living room and fitted with a thermostat.

All properties that were confirmed as compliant before the amendment will still be compliant.

Staircases and hallway spaces adjacent to the living area are where a lot of landlords get caught out. The heating requirements for the main living area factor in all connected spaces - meaning open plan living areas, and any rooms that cannot be closed off, increase the amount of heating required.

To wrap things up...

It’s important to note that a house being built to the 2008 Building Code standards may not be compliant through and through. With that said, those houses will likely have an easier time meeting compliance requirements than older properties.

If you’re ready to book a Healthy Homes inspection for your property, you can head on over to warmfuzzies.co.nz/inspections to get started if you’re in Auckland, Christchurch or Dunedin.

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What the community has to say
  • JA
    Julie

    How long is a healthy homes inspection valid for? When does it need to be done again after meeting standards if at all?

  • SS
    Sam

    I like the idea of it. As with labour execution is poor and confusing

  • AS
    Anna

    @Julie, if an inspection shows that the property is compliant with HHS, then no re-inspection is required. The property stays compliant until the rules change / are updated. The main thing to look out for is to make sure that the property doesn't develop problems down the track - that no new gaps are formed, that insulation doesn't sag, that heaters are maintained and filters are cleaned. Doing a more thorough check annually or in between tenancies would be a good habit to develop. If you're not confident about conducting these checks yourself, you can always get someone to come over to inspect / book a service like one provided by Warm Fuzzies that checks compliance.

  • GG
    Gavin

    Interested in this statement: "If you have agreed with your tenant in writing that the fireplace will be left open, then that won’t cause a failure, but you must keep written documentation and treat this as part of your tenancy agreements." Does this also apply to the ground moisture barrier? We have an old villa that's about 110 yrs old. The ground underneath is enclosed and accessible. It's bone dry, and has obviously been that way for 110 yrs. As such, there's a bunch oh stuff stored there that the tenants don't have access to, but we're expected to move everything out and install a barrier "just because"? Can we not get agreement with the tenant to exclude the barrier requirement?

  • AS
    Anna

    @Gavin I’m afraid, there is a special mention under Draught stopping standard that covers chimneys and open fireplaces. There is an exemption that allows tenants to have these fireplaces if they want for their enjoyment AND if the landlord is happy to grant permission not to block them.

    A requirement for a ground moisture barrier is covered by the Moisture ingress and drainage standard. Unfortunately, landlords are required to install one if it’s practicably reasonable. If you have space to store items underfloor, I’m afraid it sounds like it’s accessible. So you can’t simply opt out by having a written agreement with your tenants.

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