Posted on 15 07 2022
Healthy Homes Standards – What’s Happening
Two years after New Zealand’s Healthy Homes Standards became law, there is still debate over some standards and ongoing confusion about results. The Government admitted in March 2022 that they were not collecting data to determine how many rental homes are compliant with the scheme and Green MP Chloe Swarbrick weighed in with a call for the healthy home status of all rental properties to be captured through a form of a Warrant of Fitness.
However, one strong statistic is emerging. Ministry of Health information indicates that the resulting improved living environments equate to fewer hospitalisations, especially in children. In late 2019 after the scheme’s first winter, findings from a valuation of more than 15000 successful submissions to the Healthy Homes programme equated to 1,533 fewer hospitalisations, 9,443 fewer GP visits and 8,784 fewer medicines for children in homes that took advantage of the programme. (Ref: REINZ Blog, Jan 11, 2021, by Joanne Rae)
Despite the lack of conclusive data on the programme's success, the fact remains that cold, damp houses are not ok. It is compulsory for all rental properties in New Zealand to comply with healthy home standards. Assessing and implementing these standards is now essential to being a landlord in this country.
The Healthy Homes Standards that became law on 1 July 2019 require landlords to comply with specific standards in five aspects: heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture ingress and drainage, and draft stopping. Private landlords must ensure that their rental properties comply with these standards within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy after 1st July 2021 or by 1st July 2024.
While there are obvious benefits for tenants through better living conditions, landlords also have an upside. Generally, the best tenants are now attracted to Healthy Home compliant houses, as are investors when rental properties become available for sale.
A property that complies with the Healthy Homes standards will require less maintenance than one where there are ongoing leaks and mould from condensation-damaged floor coverings, curtains, and walls. Repairing this damage can be expensive, and repair bills could cost several thousands of dollars.
Landlords must keep records for Healthy Homes compliance and submit documentation to declare the type, location, and condition of their property’s insulation (in walls, ceilings and under floor). Tenancy Services provide an online template for submissions. However, with the complexity and strict compliance obligations, landlords are turning more to a growing industry of Healthy Home Inspectors to help them navigate the technicalities.
In April this year, the Humans’ Rights Commission released the findings of its enquiry into the Healthy Homes Standards. They advised the government to establish an independent housing authority to conduct inspections rather than leave it up to private organisations who also tend to provide the remedial services.
Industry submissions have had an impact on the standards themselves. The government has tweaked the standards with feedback from property managers and industry bodies. Most recently, they changed the heating formula to consider the efficiency of housing built to the 2008 building code. This change came into effect on 12 May 2022, and the compliance deadline for qualifying properties has been extended to 12 Feb 2023.
Failure to comply with the Healthy Homes Standards can result in the landlord’s being fined up to $4000. By March 2022, the Tenancy Compliance and Investigation Team (TCIT) had made 1304 interventions, including 219 that were compliant driven. The team’s national manager Dan Herlihy told NewsHub that they proactively visited landlords allegedly in breach of the act.
As the Healthy Homes programme continues towards the milestone deadlines, more and more landlords are facing the challenge of making their properties compliant. With debates continuing to rage between government and the industry, there is a possibility that further changes will add more layers of complexity. The team at Greenside will continue to stay equipped to support landlords through the transition. Call us if you would like to find out more about what the Healthy Homes Standards mean for your property.