New Rules Proposed to Improve Health Standards of Rental Homes

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Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford has issued a consultation paper on minimum standards proposed under the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act, which the Government says must be in place by July 1st next year.

The proposed standards will set minimum requirements for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage, and draught stopping in residential rental properties. The public consultation paper examines issues and suggests options for each category.

The Minister said the proposed standards were “designed to eradicate the tens of thousands of health complaints resulting every winter from “damp, cold and mouldy” rental homes”. He also stated that the current Government is “committed to improving the quality of rental properties so that families living in rental properties are happier and healthier”.

The proposals come on the back of the Government’s Healthy Homes Guarantee Act passed in December. They will require all landlords to bring their rental properties up to the new health standards, except where those improvements are not practical.

Landlords who did not comply with the new standards could face a $4000 fine issued by the Tenancy Tribunal. It was unclear how many of the country’s rental properties would need to be modified, Twyford said.

PROPOSED RENTAL HOUSING STANDARDS

HEATING
Indoor temperature:
Option 1 – heaters able to maintain a temperature of at least 18 degC in applicable rooms
Option 2 – heaters able to maintain temperature of at least 20 degC
Heating devices:
Option 1 – landlords required to provide fixed heating devices only
Option 2 – landlords required to provide fixed and portable heating devices
Heating locations:
Option 1 – Heating provided in living room
Option 2 – Heating provided in bedrooms and living room

INSULATION
Minimum ceiling and underfloor insulation level:
Option 1 – no change from 1978 standard for existing insulation and 2008 Building Code standard for new installations
Option 2 – 2001 Building Code standard for existing insulation and 2008 Building Code standard for new installations
Option 3 – 2008 Building Code standard for existing and new insulation
Insulation degradation levels:
Option 1 – 30 per cent reduction classed as unreasonable
Option 2 – 10 per cent reduction classed as unreasonable

VENTILATION
Appropriate ventilation method:
Option 1 – No change: At least one window in all bathrooms, sufficiently-sized windows in other habitable rooms and adequate ventilation in non-habitable rooms
Option 2 – Openable windows in living room, dining room, kitchen, and bedrooms – unless exemption applies and bathrooms have extractor fan
Option 3 – Same as option two, plus extractor fan in rooms with indoor cooktop

MOISTURE AND DRAINAGE
Option 1 – No change: efficient drainage for removal of stormwater, surface water and ground water; gutters and drains to remove roof water; adequate ventilation to prevent floor dampness
Option 2 – addition of subfloor ground moisture barrier (81 per cent of rental homes do not have these)
DRAUGHT STOPPING
Option 1 – No change: Walls and ceilings sheathed, plastered, rendered and maintained; no crevices, holes or depressions in floor
Option 2 – Unused fireplaces and chimneys and gaps or holes bigger than three millimetres to be blocked

The discussion document and an online survey are available at www.mbie.govt.nz/healthy-homes Consultation is open for seven weeks with submissions closing at 6pm on Monday 22 October.