Proposed standards to make rental homes warmer

Already rental properties are required to be insulated by July 2019. Now the government is looking at what should be the minimum standards for a healthy home.

This is good news for everyone because a healthy home would lead to a healthy society and productive workforce.

Currently the government is consulting the public for their input into what should be the minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage, and draught stopping in residential rental properties.

How this all relates to the Residential Tenancies Act

From 1 July 2019, landlords must include a statement of intent to comply with the healthy homes standards in a new, varied or renewed tenancy agreement.

The insulation provisions of the Residential Tenancies (Smoke Alarms and Insulation) Regulations 2016 (the 2016 regulations) will be superseded when the healthy home standards come into force. The smoke alarm provisions of the 2016 regulations will continue in force. Landlords must comply with the 2016 regulations. Otherwise they could be liable for noncompliance and damages under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (RTA).

Where in the home should landlords be required to provide heating? The government is seeking feedback on these 2 proposals: 

Option one – heating in living room only. Under option one, landlords must provide a form of heating in the main ‘living room’. A living room could include a lounge, dining room and kitchen if it is an open plan rental home. The average installed cost for a medium-sized heat pump of 5-7 kilowatts is about $3,000-3,500 including GST

Option two – heating in living room and bedrooms. Under option 2, a landlord must provide a heating device in the main “living room” (lounge and dining room and kitchen if open plan) and an appropriate heating device in any room that is rented as a bedroom.

What achievable indoor temperature should heating devices be sized for? The government is seeking feedback on these 2 proposals: 

Option one – heaters must be capable of achieving an indoor temperature of at least 18ᵒC Landlords need to provide heaters capable of achieving an indoor temperature of at least 18°C in the room(s) applicable to the heating standard.

Option two – heaters must be capable of achieving an indoor temperature of at least 20ᵒC Landlords need to provide heaters capable of achieving an indoor temperature of at least 20ᵒC in the room(s) applicable to the heating standard.

 

Should landlords only be required to provide heating devices where portable electric heaters are insufficient to achieve the required indoor temperature?

Option one – landlords provide fixed heating devices only. Under this option, Landlords only provide (fixed) heating devices in cases where portable electric heaters are insufficient to heat the required rooms

Option two – landlords provide both fixed and portable heating devices. For option two, landlords must provide fixed and portable heating devices where necessary to achieve the appropriate indoor room temperature in the rooms covered by the heating standard

 

How can landlords show compliance with the insulation standard?

The government is seeking consultation on what records need to be retained to show compliance with the insulation standards. The govt  proposes that a landlord is required to retain a record to show compliance with the standard. Options for potential records include:

  • the R-value when the insulation was installed
  • a record of Building Code compliance and the level of insulation
  • a suitably qualified and experienced assessor has certified compliance with the insulation standard.

 

What level of ventilation is required in rental homes?

Option one (status quo)

Option one is the status quo. Under this option landlords must:

  • ensure every bathroom has at least one window that directly opens to the outside air unless other adequate means of ventilation are provided to the satisfaction of the local authority
  • each habitable room must be constructed such that windows with an area amounting to not less than one twentieth part of the area of the floor of the room can be opened for the admission of air
  • every room which is not a habitable room shall be provided with such window or windows as the local authority may consider necessary for adequate ventilation.

Option two: openable windows and extract fans in rooms with a bath or shower. Option two requires landlords to install mechanical extract fans (or other similar device that extracts moisture) in indoor rooms that have a shower or bath, in addition to living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens and bedrooms having a window that can be opened for the entry of air. The extract fan must be properly sized for the room it is installed in, properly installed, located in close proximity to the moisture source, well ducted and vented to the outside of the house.

Option three: openable windows and extract fans in rooms with a bath, shower or indoor cooktop Option three requires landlords to install mechanical extract fans (or other similar device that extracts moisture) in indoor rooms that have a shower, bath or indoor cooktop to remove moisture vapour and cooking fumes, in addition to living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens and bedrooms having a window that can be opened for the entry of air. The extract fan must be properly sized for the room it is installed in, properly installed, located in close proximity to the moisture source, well ducted and vented to the outside of the house.

How should landlords protect rental homes against moisture entering the home and inadequate drainage?

Option one (status quo): No changes to the current requirements

Option two: landlords install a ground moisture barrier if vents are not adequate and drainage must be efficient. This option targets the identified issue of many New Zealand rental homes having substantial subfloor moisture, insufficient subfloor ventilation, inefficient drainage and leaks and inadequate drainage.

Under option two, all landlords would be required to:

  • provide efficient pipework or drainage without leaks to remove storm water, surface water, plumbing water and ground water to avoid water pooling around or under the home, from water entering the home
  • provide gutters, downpipes, and drains that are open and not blocked and can efficiently remove storm water, surface water, ground water and plumbing water and avoid pooling water around and under the house
  • ensure a suspended floor has a ground moisture barrier that covers the soil under the home124 to protect against moisture ingress and dampness.

What is the appropriate level of draught stopping to create warm and dry rental homes?

Option one (status quo): Currently, regulation 17 of the HI Regulations requires that the materials of which each house is constructed shall be sound, durable and where subject to the effects of the weather, weatherproof, and shall be maintained in such a condition. The walls and ceilings of every habitable room, bathroom, kitchen, kitchenette, hall and stairway shall be sheathed, plastered, rendered or otherwise treated and shall be maintained to the satisfaction of the local authority. Every floor shall be kept in a good state of repair free from crevices, holes and depressions.135

Option two: stop unnecessary gaps or holes that cause noticeable draughts. Option two requires Landlords to stop any unnecessary gaps or holes that cause noticeable draughts and a colder rental home, and:

  • are 3 millimetres or greater in and around windows and doors, walls, ceilings, floors and access hatches
  • block any decommissioned chimneys and fireplaces.

The other point the govt is seeking feedback through this consultation on what date would be viable to implement the upgrades to rental homes for private landlords and public housing providers given the work and time needed to undertake upgrades. 

Option one: comply at start of a new or renewed tenancy We propose that this requirement could commence on 1 July 2021.

Option two: a single compliance date Under option two landlords will need to meet all of the standards by a set date. We propose 1 July 2022.

Option three: staggered compliance dates over five years Option three is to stagger compliance over the five year implementation period. The implementation dates would only be confirmed once decisions are made on the content of the standards. Implementation dates will need to allow a reasonable timeframe for industry to have sufficient resource and staff to scale up and down to meet expected demand from landlords and property managers.

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