In wake of the new regulations passed by the Housing and Urban Development Ministry, we see many investors wondering if buying bare land for sale, and building a property as per the new regulations ground up or putting that land up for sale when the market goes up are better options than buying a pre-existing rental.
Many bills have been passed in the past few years to ensure that the tenants in New Zealand are privy to a warm, clean, weather-proofed home. The latest bill was introduced in Sept 2018 by Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford. The bill was a reaction to the findings of research that suggested NZ’s rental houses are of lower quality as compared to owned homes.
As per the reforms the new standards are designed to improve the living conditions of the tenants and to set minimum standards for facilities that the landlord is required to provide. The ministry has made considerable efforts to make the 600,000 rented households happy and safe. This was a bid to promote healthy and fair renting conditions.
These changes have made the tenants jump with joy, but have made the landlords a little wary. The latest set of changes have increased the weather-proofing standards and have eliminated letting fees, which has left a lot of homeowners bewildered as to where they stand on their investment. This article will shed light on the latest healthy homes standards laid out by the Housing and Urban Development Ministry.
The rented properties should now be facilitated with fixed heating devices that are capable of achieving a minimum temperature of 18 degrees. It was observed that a chunk of rental homes had inadequate heating facilities. In New Zealand, as high as 22% of rented homes have unhealthy or unaffordable heating. To ensure the standard is met, an online tool will be released to measure the heating requirements for the living room. The minimum size that the online tool will approve of is 1.5 kilowatts.
It is found that many homes do not have adequate insulation, which plays an important part in retaining the heat inside the walls and keeps the space warm and dry. Homes with below standard insulation are cold and damp which in turn can cause mould and moss to grow on walls, ceilings and other damp places around the house.
As per the new standards, for newer constructions, the insulation must meet the standards set by the 2008 building code and for the existing ones, it must be above 120mm in thickness. For the owners who have met the standards set by the 2016 building code will require no further action on their part. This regulation is aimed towards rentals that were not required to upgrade as per the 2016 act. It is also in favour of the landlord to invest in insulation as mould or moss treatment is much more of a hassle. It also helps prevent legal hassles in case the tenants suffer health hazards due to the mould or the moss.
As per the latest standards, the houses must have windows that open in all the major rooms of the house – the living room, dining room, the kitchen and the bedrooms. The bathrooms and the kitchens must be fitted with adequately sized extractor fan/fans in order to expel moisture. This step is taken once again to ensure the house is free from moisture and dampness so that mould does not affect the health of the tenant. It can also be detrimental to the health of the structure; it can damage walls, ceilings, floors and the possessions of the tenants.
The fans are recommended over opening windows in the shower or bath as it is sometimes not possible due to security reasons or bad weather to do so, hence mechanical ventilation such as extractor fans and range hoods are preferred.
Most houses in NZ suffer from lack of proper drainage and moisture ingress facilities. Moisture can enter the house due to leaks, water pooling, and rising damp. As per the new standards, all of this changes. A landlord has to place high standard drainage and guttering, downpipes and drains.
And for a house with an encased subfloor, the landlord must have ground moisture barrier installed if the structure allows. Maintenance of the drains should not be neglected, and though not mandatory, employing a gutter cleaning service periodically can improve the health of the drainage system.
One of the reasons why heating a house is expensive is that sometimes the structures have draughts. Fixing a draught will cost a small sum to the landlord, which will, in turn, save the tenants from hefty heating bills. The homeowners will have to fix any unnecessary gaps and holes in the walls, ceilings, floors, doors and windows, which can cause apparent draughts. They must also seal unused chimneys and fireplaces for the same reason.
THE TIME FRAMES
The ministry has laid down certain deadlines that the landlords have to get the upgrades done within:
July 1st, 2021 – The private landlords have to ensure they meet all the requirements listed in the healthy home standards within 90 days from any new occupancy.
July 1st, 2021 – Is the date by which all the boarding houses have to meet the standard set by the HHS.
July 1st, 2023 – Registered Community Housing and houses under All Housing New Zealand must comply with HHS standards.
July 1st, 2024 – Each and every rental home must comply with the HHS standards.
The new standards have come in to place to address the long pending issue of the low-quality rentals that plagues most of New Zealand. It exempts tenants from any maintenance issues and holds the landlords accountable for their assets.
Our advice to the landlords would be to meet these basic standards of living, which are quite cost-effective and once met will only yield them higher rents. Getting the house weatherproofed, getting roof cleaning done, getting foundational problems fixed, and getting a paint job done routinely, are some common maintenance measures that can contribute towards the health of a home and keep both the tenant and the landlord happy. Tenants should get a building inspection done before buying the house to ensure that not only these standards laid by HHS are met, but also to gauge other flaws in the structure before signing a contract.