Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford sets out the Government's case for the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill, National housing spokesman Michael Woodhouse responds

New Minister of Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford says the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill will enable the Government to set standards for rental housing quality and is a huge step forward for public health.

However, National Party housing spokesman Michael Woodhouse says the Bill does nothing to improve the quality of rental housing.

Their contrasting statements are below.

Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill in first 100 days

Every New Zealander deserves a warm, healthy home to live in, said Minister of Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford, as he opened the Committee of the Whole debate for the final stages of the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2).

“Half of New Zealanders now rent. It is time to modernise the law and ensure that all rentals are fit for people to live in,” Mr Twyford says.

“This Bill will enable the Government to set standards for rental housing quality. It will be a huge step forward for public health. It is one of the Government’s priorities in our first 100 days to start building a better New Zealand.

“Warm, dry homes are vital for the health of our families. It is only reasonable for landlords to ensure that the product they sell does not damage the health of their tenants.

Earlier this year, the Building Research Association released research showing nearly a third of rentals felt damp by varying degrees. 40,000 children a year are admitted to hospital due to diseases are related to poor housing, and 1,600 New Zealanders’ lives a cut short by illnesses caused by living in cold, damp conditions. This has to change.

“The Healthy Homes standards will cover heating, insulation, ventilation, draught stopping, drainage and moisture. Many landlords will already meet these standards. For those that need to upgrade their properties, government grants of up to $2,000 for installing heating and insulation will be available.

“The Government will run a consultation process over the next 18 months to ensure that tenants, landlords, public health and building science experts and industry representatives have an opportunity to get involved in creating robust minimum standards” Mr Twyford says. 

The minimum standards will be implemented through supplementary regulations that will be developed after the Bill has been passed, and after public consultation.

·the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2) will commence on 1 July 2019

·all residential tenancies must comply with the regulations within five years of the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2) commencing; and

·earlier compliance dates may be prescribed by the regulations in some circumstances.

And here's the statement from Michael Woodhouse.

Labour’s housing bill a backward step

The Government’s new bill supposedly aimed at imposing stricter regulations on landlords does nothing to further improve the quality of New Zealand’s rentals, National’s Housing Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“National strongly supports efforts to make homes warmer, drier and safer but Labour’s Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill does nothing to further those aims and in fact takes a number of backward steps.

“The previous National-led Government took a range of practical measures which improved rental accommodation for tens of thousands of New Zealanders, without imposing unreasonable costs on landlords and driving up rents.

“We invested heavily in insulation and made it compulsory in all rental properties along with smoke alarms, and we changed the law to ensure bad landlords were more accountable.

“Under Labour’s bill, the date for homes to be insulated could actually be delayed and the responsibilities placed on landlords will remain the same, as will the penalties they face when they fail to comply.

“The requirements for homes to be heated, ventilated, properly drained and free of draughts are also already required under existing housing regulations - so what is the point of this needless legislation?

“As with a lot of what we are seeing from Labour, they are struggling to come up with ideas and when they manage to do so they are failing to deliver the detail.

“Instead we continue to see them impose superficial and ill-thought out changes which only create uncertainty, and then spin them as significant improvements.

“That’s exactly what we are seeing here. This latest bill is a waste of the House’s time and National won’t be supporting it.”

There are additional videos from the parliamentary debate here.

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44 Comments

Extended tenure might go a long way towards tenants' ' 'health' as well.
No wonder there is a 'shortage' of rental properties at the moment, as landlords turf their tenants out to do the place up, hoping for a sale in the next few weeks/months.
6 months, and 4-week notice period, isn't long enough for those trying to establish a home in a rented house. A year is a minimum and 4 ideal on a negotiated basis ( I rented out my place in London on a 4-year deal with rent escalation clauses built in. It worked well for both parties)

Oh well, if a privately negotiated deal worked out well for both parties in one particular case at one particular time and place, then of course that same arrangement must be made compulsory in all cases.

I’ve been landlord & tenant
I’ve experienced a landlord wishing to kick me out so he could sell only 6 months after moving in !
When I threatened my lawyer the landlord a Auckland investor company backed off and I extended the lease
Then in 2006 I was moving out of the house so open homes could be conducted !
Oh renting in Auckland is never fun
In the end I bought the house myself and developed the property
I myself had been a landlord for over a decade in the 90s and never treated my numerous tenants like that

Elsewhere it is reported that the Australians have implemented a tax on EMPTY PROPERTY owned by foreign residents and has also stopped any deductions for travel against inspections. Needed also for airbnb type operators too?
We needs this type of pressure as well and preferably at a higher tax rate than they are bringing in.

Don't worry - won't happen here - Jacinda is too busy lecturing Malcolm Turnbull about irregular boat people currently held on Manus Island

It won't happen here because nothing is really ever done in NZ to move away from investing/speculating in property. Too many old snouts in the trough and too much "property is the only investment vehicle" thinking. It's hardly a Labour specific problem.

A nationwide land tax + land value only rating system (not capital value) in each district would help.
Empty house taxes are more difficult to monitor - and what defines empty? 1 day, 10 days, a month?

You're totally right. It should be across the board. It would only be cost effective to hold properties that were actually being utilised if there was a reasonable land tax.

The large reduction in houses for rent in main centres is another example of unintended but totally expected consequences of political and bureaucratic meddling in the market .

There's a large reduction? Just yesterday folk on here were highlighting an increase.

Rumpole . I agree... I've noticed Govts. don't seem to care about the higher order effects (unintended consequences)...
Their glory comes from what they do in the first instance..

Unintended but predictable consequence of the LVR's on investors. Less investors = lower stock for rent = higher rents

So Rumpole, I presume you recommend letting the market take its inevitable course to a disastrous crash and resultant economic depression.

Five years to comply from 2019... so 2024.. come on Labour, for a 100 day plan that's a seriously long tail.

Regarding Woodhouse's comments.. Clearly he is deranged and delusional:

“The requirements for homes to be heated, ventilated, properly drained and free of draughts are also already required under existing housing regulations - so what is the point of this needless legislation?
Try telling that to my landlord who took 3 months to fix a leak in the roof, we have multiple blocked gutters and no provided source of heating. Why, people may ask, do we choose not to go down the notice-to-remedy path? Because we can't be arsed moving for the third time in 3 years, and going down that road only leads to a landlord kicking you out for less vocal tennants as soon as your lease is up.

Woodhouse fails to understand there's a massive difference between "required" and what actually exists. If all houses complied with the requirements then there wouldn't be such a large amount of substandard rentals with mould and dampness issues.

I can definitely sympathise with your renting poblems. We had a leaking pipe in one place, which the landlord didn't fix for two months and only got a plumber in after the excess water started eroding the bank the house sat on. I've also had three flats with no extractor fans in the bathroom and windows either bolted shut or don't open at all; then the landlord complains of the mould in the bathroom and how it's damaging his property. Such a joke.

If the problem is that there is a massive difference between what is "required" and what actually exists, then why will Labour essentially re-legislating to re-introduce the same requirements that already exist, help that situation? You're actually helping Woodhouse's contention that this new legislation will achieve nothing at all.

If you're not willing to use the rights and resources available to tenants to address any problems they have with their landlords, what exactly do you expect the Government to do? How are they to know which landlords and which properties are failing to comply, if tenants themselves aren't willing to provide that information?

I didn't say anything about Labour, but I don't think it will do a lot. However, at least they are doing something.

As for Woodhouse saying new legislation will achieve nothing, it's a bit rich when his own party's policies fail to stop 1600 people a year from dying and 40,000 kids getting sick from poor quality rental properties.

If by "doing something" you mean wasting Parliamentary time on a Bill which will add precisely nothing to the requirements already in place, and actually slow down the timetable which the previous Government set in place for meeting those requirements - then yes, Labour are indeed "doing something".

If you owned the house how would you remedy the blocked gutters and lack of heating? How about pulling your finger out and sorting out a few things yourself? Be a bit less of an entitled moaner and maybe the landlord will be more responsive to roof leaks.

I wouldn't rent to you either without a substantial increase above and beyond what I would change to others.

You want a renter to pay for repairs and install fixed heating in a rental property out of his own pocket? Isn't it the responsibility of the landlord to do that because, you know, they own it?

You sound like you are a cheap and lazy landlord if that's your attitude towards your tenants.

How on earth is Foyle sounding like a "cheap and lazy landlord"..??
U are twisting what he was implying.
When I used to rent , I did all the little jobs myself... Cleaning out the guttering is hardly rocket science...
Landlord didn't seem to appreciate what I did... but then again he never put the rent up while I lived there..
The rent was reasonable so I figured i would do what i could ... ( I thought everyone did that )

My son had his first taste of flatting this yr... Him and his mates found what i thought was the "perfect " place.
A soon to be demolished Villa... pretty rough , but livable.. It did not suffer from damp because the wind blew thru it. They loved it. .. they could have their gatherings and it was ok. ( i've lived in cold draughty places in the past ).
The big thing for them was that it was affordable and did not require high standards.
With the regulation that is coming , those sorts of places will no longer be available. ie... cheap rental houses in good ares

How about pulling your finger out and sorting out [a lack of heating] yourself? Be a bit less of an entitled moaner and maybe the landlord will be more responsive to roof leaks.

Cheap and lazy if the landlord can't put in heating and fix damage to the property and expects the tenants to do it for themselves. I can understand the tenant cleaning out blocked gutters every now and then, though.

Wildcard has it just right. You sound like a Scrooge on steroids,with not an ounce of compassion running your your veins. I pity any tenant of yours.
I am a landlord and simply couldn't live with myself,if I treated my tenant as you appear to.

It's a double story flat with very limited access points to get a large ladder up safely and clean the gutters. Best left to professionals. I mean, just imagine if I caused some damage.. I shudder to think of the drama that would ensue. As for the heating, if I had the security knowing I'd be able to live here for 5 years, I'd seriously consider installing a heatpump, including cutting a hole in the wall and getting a sparky to wire her up. However, it is the landlord's responsibility to provide a source of heating, and whilst my three 2kw heaters do a sub-par job of keeping the place from freezing over, I don't think a supplied modern heating system is a lot to ask for, especially when it'd pay itself off literally within weeks.

I doubt that a heat pump would pay for itself within weeks. I don't think it is a landlord's responsibility to provide a source of heating although you could argue a power socket is a "source" of heating.

I don't think it is a landlord's responsibility to provide a source of heating

I think the regulations state differently

https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/maintenance-and-inspections/heating-and-vent...

From that link:

You can help provide a warm comfortable home by making sure the house has enough power points for your tenants to plug in their own heaters.

I just use a couple of cheap electric fan heaters in my own home. Costs about $50 a month extra in the winter months.

I remember my days when I was renting solo, I never knew or felt my room was cold. Being a gamer with a high end PC sure helps ;P. But soon my landlord jacked up my rent because I was using too much electricity. So much for power and water included :(

Good to see steps being taken towards tenants health rather than Landlords wealth. Times are a getting more toxic for Landlords with each passing day.

"Trade Me Property is claiming that the residential rental stock available has halved in the past year and demand from tenants is outstripping supply. They say it will be increasingly hard to find a place and prices will rise. Their data for Auckland shows offered rental volumes have dropped by -35% since last October and prices are rising."

1) a halving of rental stock is a massive drop, if true
2) notice that the rental volume on offer has dropped since the introduction of the 40% LVR for investors... many commentators on this site naively thought it would lead to higher ownership... it seems the logical effect is less rentals on offer leading to higher rents

Yvil, tenants are future home buyers too. These same tenants are already tapped out and if Landlords could charge more at any given time, they would have already. In my younger renting years my bond was withheld on two separate occasions, one for a 0.40c water bill and another for $1.16. This is the nature of Landlords. Every cent counts - right? I think going forward a lot of Landlords might have to wear extra compliance costs or leave the game entirely. At the end of the day, if some cannot afford to rent then they become resourceful, head back home or simply overcrowd. Insightful Landlords think outside the square and don't use rental accommodation shortages as a green light to demand more their tenants.

That seems incredibly mean. It would have to be a pretty serious breach, like unpaid rent, for me to withhold the bond. One of my tenants described me as the best landlord ever. I usually fight the agents to stop them putting up the rent although I have raised them this year, reluctantly, in anticipation of harsher conditions for landlords going forward.

Yvil. are you the best landlord ever?

How do you get from my comment to "are you the best landlord " ? I can't see the connection.
To answer your question, I believe that whatever you do, you have to treat people well, if you do that, in business and in your private life, things will be good (a sort of Karma I suppose)

Best landlord ever. Setting the bar pretty low there. Maybe it's because you can speak English?

Mr English...Denial is hurting China, and Chinese investors....they want to get out quick... now.

And even quicker than they ever did before.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=1194...

See, what a real Labour Government can do......speed things up....ever so slyly...now that is marketing..

(Sarc).

"You can't blame people for trying to make a dollar but it's the Government's job to ensure the housing market works for New Zealand. That's why we're stopping people who don't have the right to live here from buying houses here. Our houses need to be affordable homes for New Zealand families, not an investment asset for wealthy overseas speculators," he said.

What is this mad notion of a government representing a wide range of NZers, rather than just folk born at the right time? Madness!

We should deport migrants that work against our national interests. Yes, dreams are free!

Can anyone explain to me why only RENTALS are covered by this law and not all houses ?? Surely all people matter not just tenants ? Perhaps Landlords are easy targets ? I have been both tenant and landlord currently landlord and have a standard that any rental I let is to a standard that I would be happy to live in myself. We are not all bad people but are being painted that way in this Political PC posturing going on. Look forward to your views..

One example of this oddity is with the Rental Warrant of Fitness in Wellington. One requirement is for stays on all opening windows less than 1.5m from floor. It refers to part of the Building regulations to support this. But the building regulations (F4 Safety from Falling, 2017 amendment 2) refer to only 1 metre. Which makes the Warrant of Fitness stricter than the building regulations. Owner-occupiers buying a brand new house which is fully compliant with the Building Act will not be able to rent out the house if the Rental Warrant of Fitness was compulsory.

In many things, there are requirements to be met when you're selling it, that don't apply if it's for your own use. Nobody cares if you make yourself a sandwich with mouldy bread and expired mayonnaise, pick your nose before handling the lettuce and lick the butterknife. But if you're making that sandwich for a customer, there are legal standards to be met, and fines to be paid if you don't bother, or cause harm. If only landlords would learn this simple principle.

Regardless of the merits or otherwise of this act I fail to see how any reasonable person can support or reject the proposals when the bulk of what is being proposed is not set down in black and white. Because the act is a private members proposal it does not have a detail normally associated with an amendment to the RTA. Saying the regulations will be decided after two years of consultation is just not on. If you are going to change built in features of a property you need to know what you are doing otherwise you might make the living conditions for the tenant worse and compromise the long term sustainability of the dwelling.
By all means encourage improvements but lets think before we vote and sign.

Retired Poppy, are you Gordon using another name.
If not you should contact him as you would get on very well together.
A couple of jealous and bitter old men!
Life is what you make it and by moaning on here about your disgust of landlords who are providing a valuable service in NZ is pathetic.
Get on with your life and don’t worry,about what other successful people are doing!

Who is Gordon? Nice spin "Landlords are providing a valuable service to NZ", its worth bottling. Seriously now, by way of human nature, Landlords service their own needs. Judging by the venom seeping from your comments, it's pretty obvious you're taking it personally - why on earth is that?