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Healthy Homes Standards – what do they mean for me?

February 28, 2019

Healthy Homes Standards – what do they mean for me?

After many months of deliberation, the Healthy Homes Standards for rentals were announced last weekend, covering insulation, heating and ventilation and other areas. In our work around the Wellington region, we work closely with landlords, property managers and tenants, so have put together this blog to break down what exactly has changed with the introduction of these standards, and how – and when - they will affect you.

The Healthy Homes Standards (HHS) are an attempt to improve the rental housing stock in New Zealand, which is way below the standard of our European counterparts, and widely reported to be the cause of significant illness around the country.

It could be argued that the standards don’t go far enough – a point our Chief Exec Phil Squire made this week. Regardless, landlords, property managers and tenants need to be aware of what exactly the new standards are, and what needs to be done to ensure properties are compliant.

As such, we’ve laid out below each of the new standards, as well as a further explanation on the likely outcomes for everyone involved.

What are the Healthy Homes Standards, and what do they mean for me? 

  • Heating – Rental homes must have fixed heating devices in living rooms, which can warm rooms to at least 18°C. Some heating devices are inefficient, unaffordable or unhealthy, and they will not meet the heating standard requirements.

For the majority of homes this will mean the installation of a suitably sized heat pump or flued gas heater in the living room. Smaller homes and apartments may get away with an electric resistance heater fixed to the wall. The government is working on a sizing tool to specify the actual heat output of the heating device required and the kinds of heating that will be in and out. Note - unflued gas heaters will not be allowed.

  • Insulation – Rental homes must have ceiling and underfloor insulation which either meets the 2008 Building Code, or (for existing ceiling insulation) is at least 120mm thick.

Existing regulations (Residential Tenancies Act) require all rentals (with accessible ceilings and underfloors) to be insulated by 30 June 2019. The new HHS will not affect this requirement.  However, the HHS lifts the minimum ceiling insulation depth for rentals with existing insulation from 70mm to 120mm. Some homes have been signed off as compliant under the RTA with a ceiling insulation depth of between 70mm and 120mm – these homes will need to upgraded to the Building Code depths after the HHS compliance date.

If the property has a flat roof or low underfloor/concrete pad, an insulation exception will continue to apply. These kinds of properties are usually the worst offenders in terms of cold and damp and cost to heat – talk to us about alternative means to ensure these roofs and underfloors can be treated.

  • Ventilation – Rental homes must have the right size extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms, and opening windows in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms.

Moisture extraction at source is key to reducing condensation and mould growth. Government will issue guidance on the sizing, placement and possibly some exceptions to this rule for bathrooms and kitchens that are very hard to retrofit.

  • Moisture and drainage – Rental homes must have efficient drainage and guttering, downpipes and drains. If a rental home has an enclosed subfloor, it must have a ground moisture barrier if it’s possible to install one.

Rising damp from wet underfloors is a huge contributor to high indoor humidity. Routing storm water away from the underfloor and providing a barrier between damp earth and the floor boards is one of the simplest fixes to a damp house. There continue to be exemptions for underfloors that are low-to-the ground – talk to us for advice on how to treat these using alternative methods.

  • Draught-stopping – Rental homes must have no unnecessary gaps or holes in walls, ceilings, windows, floors, and doors that cause noticeable draughts. All unused chimneys and fireplaces must be blocked.

Uncontrolled draughts rob your home of heat. Government will be providing guidance on what kinds of gaps and widths this standard will cover. In general we expect that any gaps less than 8mm around windows and doors will need to have v-seal installed with door brushes on the bottoms of external doors. Any other obvious gaps will need caulking or carpentry work to ensure uncontrolled ventilation is minimised.

When do I need to be compliant with the standards?

  • 1 July 2019 – All rental properties need to meet the RTA insulation standards.
  • 1 July 2021 – Private landlords must ensure their property meets the HHS 90 days after the change of a tenancy
  • 1 July 2021 – All boarding houses must comply with the HHS
  • 1 July 2023 – All Housing NZ and community housing properties must comply with the HHS
  • 1 July 2024 – All rental properties must comply with the HHS (e.g. those with long-term tenancies that have not been insulated prior to 1 July 2021)

How can Sustainability Trust help? 

We are currently developing an assessment procedure to be able to assess your rental against the standards and to make recommendations and costs for upgrading. We hope to have this place in early June once government has outlined the exact HHS assessment requirements. We strongly encourage landlords to get an assessment as soon as possible as there will be heavy demand on all energy efficiency providers and waiting lists will be long.

And a final reminder regarding the existing RTA insulation deadline – your property must have ceiling and underfloor insulation installed in all accessible parts of the house. Failure to do so will leave you open for a $4000 damages claim. Talk to us as soon as a possible so we can get you started on the road to meeting these obligations.

 




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