Healthy Homes Guarantee Act 2017 - A Guide For Tenants & Landlords - 19/01/2018
The current Labour-led government’s second major law to be enacted during its term is the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act 2017 (the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act), 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 and ventilation.
So what does this new Healthy Homes Guarantee Act mean for tenants and landlords in 2018 and beyond?
Why do we need healthy homes legislation?
For many New Zealanders, living in a healthy home is aspirational and in some cases, unachievable. Given how important our health is when it comes to fulfilling the requirements of everyday life, it certainly should not be.
Numerous changes to building regulations over the years, and a building code that is not adequate nor appropriate for the New Zealand, have contributed to some New Zealanders living in homes that are not conducive to healthy 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 healthy environment.
What actually makes a home healthy?
HRV believes that a healthy 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 needs 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 healthy 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.
Ventilation – homes need to breathe and maintaining a well-ventilated house will ensure that excess moisture is removed 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 healthy?
Everyone lives differently and occasionally some people’s habits can contribute negatively to a home’s health.
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 will help to remove moisture before it settles inside the home.
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.
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 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:
“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”.
What Is the Healthy Temperature Standard Set Out In The Healthy Homes Guarantee Act?
The exact requirements are not set out in the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act but will be set by the government before 2019.
However, the law will require landlords to ensure that any property subject to a new tenancy from 1 July 2019 must be either properly insulated or contain a heating source.
All tenancies must meet the new standards by 1 July 2024.
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. Once 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?
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’?
This aspect has been a bone of contention between the Labour led-government and the opposition parties.
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, healthy homes. This Healthy Homes Guarantee Act aims to formalise guidelines as to what constitutes warm and dry accommodation. However, Dr Nick Smith, who was responsible for building regulations under the previous National government, has said: “Parliament didn't know the details of the government's proposal, because the standards had not yet been set”.
Specifics are thin on the ground.
National and Labour have both agreed that insulation should be a requirement, however, they have differed in the past when it came to indoor temperature. After all, if a heat pump is installed, but a tenant doesn’t use it, then the indoor temperature is obviously affected.
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 and healthy to live in.
Be sure to bookmark this page and we will update it as more details are released.
 BRANZ Study Report SR372  - 56% of rental homes surveyed had visible mould
 HRV State of Home Survey  – 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.
 BRANZ Study Report SR341  – Suggestion that clause G4 of the New Zealand Building Code should be reviewed.
 Based on a Panasonic Z20TKR heat pump with a supplier published COP of 4.91