Residential Tenancies: Healthy Homes Standards

22 June, 2022 | Jennifer Edwards

A residential landlord’s obligations have always been laid out in the Residential Tenancies Act. However, over the last few years the Government has introduced further requirements as laid out in the Healthy Homes Standards.

The first of these changes came into effect on July 1 2019, and additional requirements came into force on 1 July 2021. Many landlords struggled to get their properties up to standard for the last round of changes, and we are now seeing a large number of claims by tenants against landlords who have failed to meet the minimum standards.

You should start working on preparing your property now to meet the new standards – to help prevent issues when the new standards become law.

The current law requires a landlord to ensure the property meet the following requirements:

  • Smoke Alarms

Ensure working smoke alarms are installed in all residential rental properties.  The standards require a minimum of one working smoke alarm in a hall, within three metres of each bedroom door.

  • Insulation

The house must meet insulation requirements for the floor and ceiling.

The current standards are much higher than the standard insulation that was found in most properties prior to this law being introduced. You can find out more about the current insulation standards here – https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/maintenance-and-inspections/insulation/compulsory-insulation/

There are some exceptions for where it is not reasonably practicable to install insulation. For example, for houses on a concrete floor plate with no underfloor cavity it is not reasonably practical to install insulation.

You can find out about the exceptions for insulation here – https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/maintenance-and-inspections/insulation/insulation-exceptions/

From 1 July 2021

All private rentals must comply with additional heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture ingress and drainage and draught stopping requirements. Compliance must be achieved within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy after 1 July 2021, with all private rentals complying by 1 July 2024.

Heating

The main living area must have a heater that will heat the room to 18˚C.  The heater must be fixed, not portable, and if it is a heat pump or electric wall heater it must have a thermostat.

There are different requirements for heating your main living area depending on the size of the area and there is a helpful tool on the Tenancy Services, click here to access the calculation tool  https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/heating-tool/

Depending on the size of your property a heat pump, wood burner, pellet burner or flued gas heater will be sufficient.

There are also considerations if the property already has existing heating, and we recommend you peruse the Healthy Homes section of the Tenancy Services website.

Higher Insulation Requirements

Residential properties are required to have higher levels of insulation for both floors and ceilings. This is in addition to the insulation requirements Landlords were imposed with on 1 July 2019.

In Auckland and the mid-coastal areas of the North Island the minimum is ceiling R 2.9 and underfloor R1.3.  In the central Tongariro district and the South Island the minimum is ceiling R3.3 and underfloor R 1.3.

If you or a previous owner upgraded the insulation after 1 July 2016 (and have proof of doing so) you will not have to increase the amount of insulation. If the insulation met the requirements for the 2019 guidelines, but was installed before 1 July 2016, you will have to upgrade to meet the new 2021 requirements.

Ventilation

All habitable rooms in a rental property must have at least one window, door or skylight which opens to the outside and can be fixed in the open position. In each room, these openings must be at least 5% of the floor area of that room.

There are some exemptions to this rule which can be found here https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/healthy-homes/ventilation-standard/

All kitchens and bathrooms must have an extractor fan vented outside.

If the Kitchen contains a cooktop, a fan or rangehood installed after 1 July 2019 must have a minimum diameter (including ducting) of 150mm or an exhaust capacity of at least 50 litres per second.

In a bathroom containing a shower and/or bath, any new fans installed after 1 July 2019 must have a minimum diameter (including ducting) of 120mm or an exhaust capacity of at least 25 litres per second.

If your property has an existing fan installed prior to 1 July 2019 as long as it is in good working order and ventilated to the outside you do not have to meet the above requirements.

Moisture ingress and drainage standard

The rental property must have efficient drainage for the removal of storm water, surface water and ground water, including an appropriate outfall. The drainage system must include gutters, downpipes and drains for the removal of water from the roof.

Ground moisture barrier

If the rental property has an enclosed subfloor, the property must have a ground moisture barrier is installed if it is reasonably practicable to do so.

A ground moisture barrier is usually a sheet of polythene.  Tenancy Services advise that it can be installed by the homeowner or a professional.

The ground moisture barriers must either:

  • be a polythene sheet and installed in accordance with section 8 of New Zealand Standard NZS4246:2016, or
  • have a vapour flow resistance of at least 50MNs/g and be installed by a professional installer.

Draught stopping

The landlord must make sure that they deliver the property to the Tenant in a reasonable state of repair.

The draught stopping portion of the Healthy Homes Standards provides that the Landlord must make sure that any gaps or holes in the floor, ceiling, walls (including doors, windows and skylights) are stopped or plugged.

Any unused open fires in the property must be closed off or the chimney blocked to prevent draughts coming down the chimney.

Prosecutions for breaches

As you will have seen in the media in the months since the provisions of the Healthy Homes Standards came into force in 2019, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has the power to prosecute landlords for breaking tenancy laws as part of these reforms, especially if there is a risk to health and safety.

We strongly recommend that investor property buyers that are looking at purchasing residential property to rent out should take these plans into consideration, particularly where the cost of fully insulating an older property up to standard or installing heat pumps will require a substantial amount of capital to be added to the investment required.

The new laws emphasise the importance of conducting a thorough due diligence process prior to unconditional purchase of any residential property.

For assistance with understanding your obligations as a residential property landlord or advice on purchasing an investment property, talk to investment property law expert, Jennifer Edwards today by phoning  09 837 6889 or emailing jennifer.edwards@smithpartners.co.nz.

For assistance with residential tenancy disputes contact residential tenancy disputes expert, Alana Kalinowski to set up an appointment by phoning 09 837 6849 or emailing alana.kalinowski@smithpartners.co.nz.

For assistance with residential property landlord obligations or advice on purchasing an investment property, talk to investment property law expert, Jennifer Edwards today.

email Jennifer
+64 9 837 6889

About the author

Jennifer has been helping Kiwis buy and sell property for over 15 years. As a highly experienced registered legal executive, she assists clients with residential and commercial property transactions including conveyancing, finance, reviewing building contracts for new builds and commercial
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