A heads up about healthy homes

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PRIVATE RENTALS MUST COMPLY WITH HEALTHY HOMES STANDARDS FROM 1 JULY 2021

If you’re a current landlord, or looking to buy a rental, you need to be aware of the healthy homes standards, which became law on 1 July 2019. All private rentals must comply with these standards within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy after 1 July 2021, with all private rentals complying by 1 July 2024.

There may be some cost involved to make sure your property is compliant – so landlords should factor this into their property management budget, or purchasing decision if buying a new rental.

Five minimum standards

The healthy homes standards have been introduced to help ensure landlords have healthier, safer properties and lower maintenance costs for their investments, and make it easier for tenants to keep their homes warm and dry. There are five standards: heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture ingress and drainage, and draught stopping. There are some general exemptions to the standards, as well as specific exemptions that apply only to a particular standard. The following is a summary of the healthy homes requirements – further comprehensive information and resources for each standard can be found here.

1. Heating

Landlords must provide one or more fixed (not portable) heaters that can directly heat the main living room. The heater(s) must be acceptable types, and must meet the minimum heating capacity required for your main living room.

In most cases, the acceptable types of heater(s) will be a larger fixed heating device like a heat pump, wood burner, pellet burner or flued gas heater. In some cases, e.g. small apartments, a smaller fixed electric heater may be enough. Heater(s) must not be an open fire or an unflued combustion heater, e.g. portable LPG bottle heaters.

To find out the heating capacity required for a main living room, landlords need to use the Heating Assessment Tool or the formula outlined in the regulations. For more information about different heating options visit the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority website.

Exemptions

  • Access is impracticable – where it is not reasonably practicable to install one or more qualifying heating devices.
  • Rental property is a certified passive building.

2. Insulation

Ceiling and underfloor insulation has been compulsory in all rental homes since 1 July 2019. The healthy homes insulation standard builds on the current regulations and some existing insulation will need to be topped up or replaced, from 1 July 2021.

Insulation requirements are measured by R-value. R-value is a measure of resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation. Minimum R-values vary across New Zealand. You can check what zone your property is in, and the corresponding type of insulation required here.

Landlords who have installed new insulation since 1 July 2016 should already meet the healthy homes insulation standard. These landlords probably won’t need to do anything further to comply with the healthy homes standards. They should still check that the insulation is in a reasonable condition.

Exemptions

  • Access is impracticable or unsafe – parts of homes may be exempt if a professional installer is unable to access and/or insulate, until this becomes possible (e.g. when a property is re-roofed).
  • Partial exemption for certain underfloor insulation – if the property has existing underfloor insulation, in reasonable condition, that was installed when the home was built or converted. Compliance documents are required to show that is the case, e.g. code compliance certificate.
  • Ceilings and floors with other habitable spaces directly above or below – e.g. another floor of the same property or another apartment.

3. Ventilation

The ventilation standard targets mould and dampness in rental homes. Rental homes must have openable windows in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. Kitchens and bathrooms must have extractor fans.

Openable windows – All habitable rooms in a rental property must have at least one window, door or skylight which opens to the outside and can be fixed in the open position.

In each room, the size of the openable windows, doors and skylights together must be at least 5% of the floor area of that room.

Extractor fans – All kitchens and bathrooms must have an extractor fan vented to the outside.

  • Kitchens – In any room with a cooktop, new fans or rangehoods installed after 1 July 2019 must have a minimum diameter (including ducting) of 150mm or an exhaust capacity of at least 50 litres per second.
  • Bathrooms – In any room with a shower or bath, new fans installed after 1 July 2019 must have a minimum diameter (including ducting) of 120mm or an exhaust capacity of at least 25 litres per second.
  • Landlords should ask installers for the details of the fan diameters, ducting and flowrate in writing, so they can show they are compliant with the healthy homes ventilation standard.
  • You can use this online tool to find out if you need to install a new extractor fan in the kitchen or bathroom of your rental property.

Exemptions

  • Lawful when built – A room doesn’t need to meet the requirements for openable windows and external doors if it was lawful when it was built or converted into a habitable space. If having fewer windows or doors was only lawful because the room met alternative ventilation requirements, then the room must still meet those requirements to qualify for this exemption.
  • Extractor fans – Applies to kitchens or bathrooms where it is not reasonably practicable to install an extractor fan. This exemption has a number of criteria which must all be met.  It is recommended you get professional advice and keep a copy of that advice to qualify for this exemption.

4. Moisture ingress and drainage

Rental properties must have efficient drainage for the removal of storm water, surface water and ground water. The drainage system must include gutters, downpipes and drains for the removal of water from the roof.

Rental properties with an enclosed sub-floor space must have a ground moisture barrier. This is generally a polythene sheet that can be bought from most building retailers, and can be installed by a house owner or a building professional.

Exemptions

There is one exemption for this standard, which covers properties where it is not reasonably practicable to install a ground moisture barrier.

Further information about the moisture ingress and drainage standard, and how the exemption applies, can be found here.

5. Draught stopping

Landlords must make sure the property doesn’t have unreasonable gaps or holes in walls, ceilings, windows, skylights, floors and doors which cause noticeable draughts. All unused open fireplaces closed off or their chimneys must be blocked to prevent draughts.

Tenants can ask landlords in writing to make the fireplace available for use and the landlord can agree. If it is available for use, it must be in good working order and free of any gaps which could cause a draught that are not necessary for the safe and efficient operation of the open fireplace. It is best practice to record any agreement in writing, with both tenant and landlord keeping a copy.

You can find more specific information on the draught stopping standard here.

If you are not sure how the healthy homes standards apply to your situation, please give our expert property team a call. We will be happy to talk these through with you so you can have peace of mind when putting in an offer on a rental property, or to ensure your existing rental is compliant come 1 July 2021.

Our thanks to Vanessa Crosby for writing this article.