The new rental homes legal standards target improved heating, insulation, ventilation and drainage, reduce moisture and stop draughts for 600,000 tenants

The new rental homes legal standards target improved heating, insulation, ventilation and drainage, reduce moisture and stop draughts for 600,000 tenants

New minimum standards will make rental properties drier and warmer. The healthy homes standards, which become law later this year, aim to improve heating, insulation, ventilation and drainage, reduce moisture and stop draughts.

Ensuring all tenants have a warm and dry home is a priority for the Government, to help improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders and their families. Nearly 600,000 households rent in New Zealand, and research has shown that New Zealand’s rental housing is of poorer quality than owner-occupied homes.

The healthy homes standards

Heating The main living area must have a fixed heating device that can heat the room to at least 18°C.
Insulation Ceiling and underfloor insulation must either meet the 2008 Building Code (see more about this below), or (for existing ceiling insulation) have a minimum thickness of 120mm and be in reasonable condition.
Ventilation Ventilation must include openable windows in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. Rooms with a bath or shower or indoor cooktop must have an appropriately sized extractor fan.
Drainage Rental properties must have efficient drainage, guttering, downpipes and drains.
Moisture If a rental property has an enclosed subfloor space, a ground moisture barrier must be installed where possible.
Draughts Any gaps or holes in walls, ceilings, windows, floors and doors that cause noticeable draughts must be blocked. This includes all unused chimneys and fireplaces.

About the healthy homes standards (external link) - Ministry of Housing and Urban Development

Meeting the 2008 Building Code

Insulation requirements under the 2008 Building Code are measured by R-value. ‘R’ stands for resistance — how well insulation resists heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.

You can check the R-value of new insulation by checking the product packaging. For existing insulation, you may need a professional insulation installer to tell you if it meets the regulations. If you're looking for an installer, the Insulation Association of New Zealand and the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority can help.

Insulation Association of New Zealand  (external link)

Insulation installers (external link) - EECA Energywise

Minimum R-values vary across New Zealand’s three climate zones.

  • Zone 1 — ceiling R 2.9, underfloor R 1.3
  • Zone 2 — ceiling R 2.9, underfloor R 1.3
  • Zone 3 — ceiling R 3.3, underfloor R 1.3

 

Many rental homes in New Zealand are well below the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum indoor temperature of 18°C.

Many rental homes in New Zealand are well below the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum indoor temperature of 18°C.

 

Existing insulation may meet the standard — or not

Many rental homes in New Zealand don’t have adequate insulation, meaning they’re more likely to be cold and damp. Insulation minimises heat loss, making homes easier and cheaper to keep warm and dry, and healthier to live in.

Some landlords have installed new insulation during the past three years to comply with legislation that was introduced in 2016. Those properties should already meet the 2008 Building Code, so they won’t need to do anything further to meet insulation requirements under the healthy homes standards.

However, insulation in some homes may need to be ‘topped up’ to meet the new minimum requirements under the healthy homes standards.

It’s important for landlords to remember that existing insulation requirements under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 still apply. Under this Act, landlords must make sure homes comply by 1 July 2019 with the insulation requirements that were introduced in 2016.

Insulation standard (external link) - Ministry of Housing and Urban Development


This article is a repost from the MBIE website here.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

24 Comments

You need to state the effective date of these requirements apart from insulation, they are not 1 July 2019.

Yes that's extremely confusing. At least 2021 for all the rest?

What exemptions are there for rental properties with flat roofs and no ceiling cavity, or with underfloor areas difficult to access?

There are some. It all seems to hinge on what is "reasonably practicable". They do explicitly mention slab floors and ceilings without cavity though.

A very good thing for 600'000 tenants : )

It's going to be expensive. Rents increases, higher housing subsidies.

It shouldn’t really. Let’s say it costs 3k for new insulation etc and the house is “worth” 600k - that is only a 0.5% investment. If the rent was $400 per week a 0.5% increase would be $2 a week. I think most people would pay that for an insulated house.

FYI, there are stories of cashflow constrained and debt constrained property investors where the cost might be too much for them:

1) https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/houses/98628647/proposed-change...
2) https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=121...
3) https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/83412312/new-loan-restrictions-causing-...

Also remember that there are 116,000 property investors who filed tax losses in 2016/2017 tax year - that might mean that they are cashflow constrained also, and would mean more money out of household budgets of property investors.

Also remember that there are 116,000 property speculators who filed tax losses in 2016/2017 tax year

Fixed that for you.

But is the problem that rents are too low or that they paid too much for the house?

It shouldn't but sadly a lot of landlords will use any excuse they can to raise rents. If it costs them 3k, they are going to want at least 3-5x that in return for their "investment".

So this fixed heating device can just be any old thing? A really inefficient $50 panel heater from mitre 10?
I would say it should have been either heat pump or gas - or fire if the landlord provides the wood etc.

If there is not at least a heat pump requirement then these new 'standards' are a total joke. But hey, this is NZ and honestly I wouldn't be surprised.

Erm , panel heaters are 99% efficient, as are electric bar heaters. They just aren't cheap to run.

My reading of the standard is not that the fixed heater needs be located in the living room, but that it needs to be "capable of achieving a minimum temperature of at least 18°C in the living room". The heat pump in our rental is located downstairs so that it can heat both the bedrooms and living room to above 18 degrees. Our living room is upstairs, but the heat rises.

"to help improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders and their families"

These wonderful words never fail to impress me "wellbeing of New Zealanders and their families" means if they don't live in rentals clearly they don't matter ?

SURELY these rules should apply to all houses if the term - wellbeing of New Zealanders and their families - means anything.

Landlords are just easy targets, more Government regulation that creates a more - us and them society.

Home owners can often choose to improve the wellbeing of themselves and their families. The same can not often be said for tenants as they need permission to make changes to the property to improve the wellbeing.

E.g. As a home owner, I installed security stays on our windows so we can ventilate the house while at work and keep an honest thief out.

Prior to owning our home, we asked our Landlord if they would install security stays on their windows. "No". Can we pay to have someone install some? "No".

We paid to have a Heat Pump installed in our home. Why would a tenant pay to have a Heat Pump installed in a Landlord's rental?

Not sure why you bothered explaining. Its obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together.

Shoreman was struggling with the concept, I thought rather than pointing at him and laughing I'll try walk him through it.

Unfortunately you have both missed the point. This is not about affordability or a choice of the tenant, landlord or homeowner. It is about "improving the wellbeing of New Zealanders and their families" specifically the 6000 children admitted to hospital each year. These children live in both rentals AND owner occupier homes. The govt has made the decision for landlords but unfortunately have left the owner occupier kids suffering.

Okay while we are at it, let's have the councils apply food grades to every private dwelling's kitchen. It's totally unfair that restaurants get picked on when food poisoning happens with home cooked meals as well.

It's typical though, Landlords throw on the "it's a business" hat when it's time to claim the benefits of expenses/write offs but that hat quickly disappears and whataboutitism kicks in when they're expected to supply a product/service that's fit for purpose. Maybe the Government could extend this requirement to Owner Occupiers after they allow them to claim the Mortgage Interest and other housing related expenses against their taxable income.

The point? I think you mean the strawman that Shoreman was building up to try to knock down.

Owner occupiers are free to invest in and improve their own home any time they like. Nothing stopping them. In fact they have been able to access various programme like the warmer kiwi programme if they are genuinely unable to afford to insulate their own home.

Unlike renters who are not able to access that assistance, are hopefully not stupid enough to invest in improving somebody else's asset (unless they have a very long rental agreement), then face not having their tenancy renewed.

The measure of R value is a laboratory test and one of the main control variables is that there is NO air movement.

Research shows that if you allow any air movement through the insulation, ie do not tape overlaps, but and base joins, then your R value is effectively 50% than the stated value.

Further air movement allows extra moisture, dust, dirt, spores etc. to enter structure where it gets held by the insulation - contaminating the structure and providing ideal conditions for mould growth.

Govt. insulation program, without curbing airflow, will do more future damage than it aims to prevent.