Updated 09/04/2019

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The current Labour-led government’s second major law to be enacted during its term is the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act 2017, which was passed into law on 4 December 2017. The Healthy Homes Guarantee Act aims to set new standards for rental properties in terms of home warmth.

So what does this new Healthy Homes Guarantee Act mean for tenants and landlords in 2019 and beyond?

Why Do We Need The Healthy Homes Legislation? 

For many New Zealanders[1], living in a healthy home is aspirational[2] and in some cases, unachievable.

Numerous changes to building regulations over the years, and a building code that is not adequate nor appropriate for New Zealand[3], has contributed to some New Zealanders living in homes that are not conducive to comfortable living, for example by being too cold or too damp.

While the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act targets rental properties and landlords, it should serve as a timely reminder to all that our homes should be maintained to a high standard to ensure that we live in a comfortable environment.  

What Actually Makes A Home Comfortable?

HRV believes that a comfortable home can be achieved by balancing three key fundamentals: insulation, heating, and ventilation. Think of it as a three-legged stool – each of the legs need to be the same length otherwise it will be unusable.

Insulation – we consider that ensuring your home is well insulated should be the first step towards a comfortable living environment. Also, there’s no point in spending money heating a home that won’t retain the heat. A well-insulated home will have insulation in the walls and the ceiling as well as under the floor if it’s raised above the ground. Window coverings such as thermal drapes will help to reduce heat loss through glass and carpet or rugs can help to cut down on heat loss through timber floors.

Heating – Any kiwi will know how cold it can get during the New Zealand winter. It’s not enjoyable feeling cold when you’re inside what should be your refuge from the cold, wet weather outside. Having the ability to heat your home, and do so efficiently, is important for our comfort. There are types of heating that are seen as ineffective from a cost perspective, which is why we install heat pumps. When used properly heat pumps are one of the most energy-efficient forms of heating. It’s important to have your heat pump sized and installed by a professional.

Ventilation – homes need to breathe and maintaining a well-ventilated house will ensure that excess moisture is reduced at the source and airborne moisture is expelled before it can settle on surfaces. New Zealand’s Building Code mandates mechanical extraction in bathrooms which helps to keep these high-moisture areas dry. Adding a whole home ventilation system can help ensure that any additional moisture produced by occupants can be quickly flushed out before it gets a chance to settle and cause mould.

Once a house is insulated and dry, it becomes much easier to heat. Much less energy is required to heat air than water, which is why HRV recommends drying a home out before trying to heat it. Installing a correctly specified heat pump into an insulated and dry home will provide an energy efficient way for an occupant to heat their home on demand.

What Can An Occupant Do To Make A Home Less Damp? 

Everyone lives differently and occasionally some people’s habits can contribute negatively to a home’s moisture levels.

Often we visit homes where people keep the blinds closed all day to try and keep the house warm. Unfortunately, this can create a damp, dark environment where mould spores thrive. Opening the blinds can let the biggest and cheapest heat source known to man, the sun, warm up your home. On dry days, opening windows when you are at home during the day allows the wind to passively ventilate your home which is a great way to keep it fresh and help dry it out. Showering, cooking and drying clothes all add moisture to an indoor environment so keeping a window open when doing these can help to remove moisture before it settles inside the home.

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Efficient Home Heating 

Often people think heat pumps are expensive to operate and for this reason, they never turn them on. The truth is that heat pumps are the most energy efficient form of electric heating available. An average 20 square metre lounge in an Auckland home requires around 2 kilowatts of heating energy. A standard hardware store electric heater will draw 2 kilowatts of electricity to provide 2 kilowatts of heating. By comparison, a modern heat pump requires less than 0.5 kilowatts to produce the same amount of heat energy[4].

When Do The Obligations Under The Healthy Homes Guarantee Act Commence? 

The majority of the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act will commence on 1 July 2019.

After this date, all landlords must ensure that their residential tenancies comply with the regulations relating to Healthy Homes standards by 1 July 2024, although earlier compliance dates may be prescribed by the regulations in some circumstances. The government has indicated that these healthy homes standards will likely be set and enforced in the next eighteen months. You can read more on the standards and compliance timeframes below in our recent update!

You can read the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act by clicking on the link or at the New Zealand legislation site, www.legislation.govt.nz.

How Long Will Landlords Have To Make The Required Changes? 

Up to five years, although sooner in many cases. For example, the New Zealand Parliament website notes state:

“The requirement to meet the standards will apply to all new tenancy agreements within a year of the Act coming into force.

As tenants leave and change rental homes overtime, most tenancy agreements will need to contain the requirement within five years. At that point, all residential tenancies must meet the standards”.

Read the recent updates on The Healthy Homes Standard

What Is The Temperature Standard Set Out In The Healthy Homes Guarantee Act? 

The law will require landlords to ensure that any property subject to a new tenancy from 1 July 2019 must be properly insulated and contain a heating source.

All tenancies must meet the new standards by 1 July 2024.

New information released in February 2019 (as summarised below), states: “there must be fixed heating devices, capable of achieving a minimum temperature of at least 18 degrees celsius in the living room only.”[5]

How Much Will It Cost To Upgrade Your Rental Property? 

It depends on the existing state of the property, so costs will obviously vary. It will also vary based on the healthy homes standards that the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act requires each house to have.

The government estimates that it will cost between $3,000 and $5,000 if a landlord has to insulate from scratch and have a heat pump installed.

If you’d like a free assessment for your rental property, HRV can talk you through the ventilation and heating solutions we can offer you. Now that the healthy homes standards are published, we can also work with you to ensure your property is up to standard.

Is There Any Government Support For Landlords? 

Yes.

The government has indicated that it will provide grants of up to $2,000 per property for eligible landlords to assist with renovation and heating installation. At this early stage, however, there is little detail surrounding what landlords will qualify for this grant.

Will Tenants Be Able To Afford To Heat Their New “Healthy Homes”? 

It is true that much of New Zealand housing stock is in dire straits in terms of heating and insulation provision. According to the University of Otago, our average indoor winter temperature in New Zealand is only 16 degrees. This is 2 degrees below what is recommended by the World Health Organisation for a normal household and 5 degrees below the recommended temperature if there are babies or elderly people present.

The Healthy Homes Guarantee Act aims to ensure that rental properties meet global standards of living.

During its various readings in Parliament, the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (which preceded the Act) has highlighted the fact that a combination of heating, insulation, and ventilation is vital to ensure that Kiwis are living in dry, warm, homes. This Healthy Homes Guarantee Act aims to formalise guidelines as to what constitutes warm and dry accommodation.

However, homes that have an integrated heating, insulation, and ventilation system installed will have lower heating costs as less heat is being lost and there is less chance of mildew and condensation buildup. Good quality insulation helps keep the heat in during winter and out during summer which makes a house more comfortable to live in.

Recent Updates On The Healthy Homes Guarantee Act – March 2019  

In February 2019, the Housing Minister, Phil Twyford, announced the new standards for New Zealand rental housing in line with the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act. Following this announcement, the standards will be drafted in regulations and approved by Cabinet – expected to become law by mid-2019.

A Recap: Why Has The Healthy Homes Guarantee Act Been Introduced? 

According to Twyford, approximately 1,600 New Zealanders, majority of whom are elderly, die prematurely every winter. The high number of deaths are largely attributed to cold, damp housing. With a 2016 HRV State of Home Survey suggesting half of rental homes are mouldy, it is expected that increasing the minimum standards of heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage, in conjunction with stopping draughts, the quality of rental homes in New Zealand will improve significantly.

So, what are the new standards associated with The Healthy Homes Guarantee Act? And when do landlords need to comply? Keep reading to hear the latest information released on this topic.  

mould in corner of room

The Healthy Homes Guarantee Act Standards 

The following standards set the minimum requirements for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage and draught stopping in rental housing in New Zealand[5]. This information is taken from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development website – correct as of March 2019.

StandardRequired (Minimum) Standard
HeatingThere must be fixed heating devices, capable of achieving a minimum temperature of at least 18 degrees celsius in the living room only. Some heating devices are inefficient, unaffordable or unhealthy and will not meet the requirements under the heating standard.
InsulationThe minimum level of ceiling and underfloor insulation must either meet the 2008 Building Code (for existing ceiling insulation) or have a minimum thickness of 120mm.
VentilationVentilation must include openable windows in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. Also an appropriately sized extractor fan(s) in rooms with a bath or shower or indoor cooktop.
Moisture and DrainageLandlords must ensure efficient drainage and guttering, downpipes and drains. If a rental property has an enclosed subfloor, it must have a ground moisture barrier if it’s possible to install one.
Draught stopping Landlords must stop any unnecessary gaps or holes in walls, ceilings, windows, floors and doors that cause noticeable draughts. All unused chimneys and fireplaces must be blocked.

HRV Healthy Homes Infographic

Download our HRV Healthy Homes Infographic here.

For further context, here’s some extra information to go alongside these standards[6]:

Heating – The types of heating devices required will depend on the size of the rental property. For example, a small apartment may only need a small fixed electric heater, whereas larger properties will likely require a fitted heat pump or wood burner. In terms of what is deemed “inefficient, unaffordable or unhealthy”, the following won’t be accepted in the heating standard:

  • Open fires
  • Unflued gas heaters
  • Multiple electric heaters (except heat pumps) in one room
  • Electric heaters (excluding heat pumps) with a heating capacity of more than 2.4 kilowatts.

It is still fine to use these heating devices, however landlords will need to also provide alternative heating that complies with the heating standard. There are plans to release an online tool in the near future to help landlords and tenants figure out the heating requirements for their living room.

Insulation – There is one exemption from the insulation standard. There are some properties that will currently meet the 2016 insulation requirements, which remain in force – these properties don’t require further insulation. Rather, the insulation standard will impact a new group of rental homes that have ceiling insulation of approximately 70-120mm in thickness. These homes weren’t retrofitted with insulation in line with the 2016 requirements. Tenancy Services suggest the cost to insulate the ceiling and floor of a 96 square-metre home is approximately $9,600, which would be more if the property is larger.

Failure to comply with these insulation standards by 1 July 2019 may result in a fine of up to $4,000.

Ventilation – Indoor activities such as cooking and showering are found to cause moisture, so having the ability to open windows is important. However, sometimes this isn’t the most viable option due to security concerns or the weather, which is why extractor fans or rangehoods in the kitchen and bathrooms will be made compulsory under the ventilation standard.

Moisture and Drainage –  Moisture can start from the outside of a home, especially if drainage is not doing its job and water is pooling underneath and around a house. As required by the Housing Improvement Regulation – all homes need to be fitted with efficient drainage and guttering. Rental properties will also be required under this standard, to prevent moisture entering the home from outside with a ground moisture barrier. These barriers are cost effective and simple to install.

Draught stopping – Draughts can make it difficult and expensive to heat a home as there is external, cold air entering the home that competes with whatever heating device might be in use. This standard requires landlords to stop all causes of noticeable draughts coming from gaps or holes in doors, floors, windows, ceilings and walls. Alongside this, all unused fireplaces and chimneys need to be blocked as well.

To avoid any confusion, further guidance will be made available in the near future on how to stop these draughts and what constitutes a “reasonable” draught.

Compliance Timeframes For The Healthy Homes Guarantee Act 

As stated on the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development website, the compliance timeframes for these standards are as follows[5]:

  • 1 July 2021 – From this date, private landlords must ensure that their rental properties comply with HHS within 90 days of any new tenancy.
  • 1 July 2021 – All boarding houses must comply with the HHS.
  • 1 July 2023 – All Housing New Zealand and registered Community Housing Provider houses must comply with the HHS.
  • 1 July 2024 – All rental homes must comply with the HHS.

HRV can work with you to determine if your rental property will comply with these standards, and what work is required to meet them. Get in touch with us for your Free Home Assessment today. 

We will keep updating this page as more details are released. Be sure to bookmark this page to keep on top of the standards.

References:

[1] BRANZ Study Report SR372 [2017] – 56% of rental homes surveyed had visible mould

[2] HRV State of Home Survey [2017] – 40% of respondents want to live in a warmer, drier and healthier home. 40% of tenants would like their landlord to make their house healthier.

[3] BRANZ Study Report SR341 [2015] – Suggestion that clause G4 of the New Zealand Building Code should be reviewed.

[4] Based on a Panasonic Z20TKR heat pump with a supplier published COP of 4.91

[5] The Healthy Homes Standards – published 24 February 2019.

[6] About The Healthy Homes Standards – published 24 February 2019