Insulation: A tenant's guide to new healthy homes standards

If you're a tenant in New Zealand, today's the day your home must be fully insulated. 

July 1 sees the rollout of the Healthy Homes Standards, the Government's new requirements for rental properties.

The standards also include a heater capable of warming a living room to 18C in every property, and ventilation fans in kitchens and bathrooms, but these rules won't kick in until 2021. 

Here's a quick guide to making sure your landlord is abiding by their responsibilities. 

Does my home need insulation?


  • If your home already had ceiling and floor insulation up to the 2001 building standard, your landlord does not have to upgrade it. 
  • If you live in an apartment with neighbours above and below you, your apartment does not require insulation. 
  • If your home is built on a concrete slab and underfloor insulation is not feasible, your landlord does not have to install it. 
  • If your landlord plans to demolish or rebuild your home in the next year, the new insulation laws do not apply. 
  • If you live in a Housing New Zealand property, the new standards will not apply to your home until 2023. 

What should my home have? 


Under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), all rental properties must have ceiling and underfloor insulation (where possible) from July 1. 

Properties with no previous insulation must be upgraded to the 2008 building standard, while those with some existing insulation must meet the 2001 building standard. From 2021 ceiling insulation must be at least 120mm thick, but for now existing insulation only has to be 70mm thick.

Your landlord must also provide a statement in the tenancy agreement outlining the details of the property's insulation. 

All rental properties must also have a working smoke alarm by July 1. 

How do I know if my home is insulated?


There are three ways you can check your home's insulation. The first is by physically getting into the ceiling cavity and underfloor area and having a look yourself. 

The second is hiring a professional to carry out an insulation assessment to make sure everything's up to scratch. You can either ask your landlord to do it (which could make for an awkward conversation about whether you trust them to have done it) or contact your local council for a free assessment

The third option is to order a property file from the council, which you can have sent to you or a service centre where you can view it. A file will set you back between $27 and $95, so it's not an ideal way to find out.

If I'm checking the insulation myself, what should I watch out for?


Consumer NZ advises checking for gaps, damage or compression as a warning sign of efficient insulation. Ceiling insulation should sit above or over the top of ceiling joists, and may have been damaged by roofing leaks or birds' nests over the years.

When it comes to underfloor insulation, one thing to keep an eye out for is foil. Once the most common material used for insulating floors, the installation of foil insulation has been banned since 2016 due to its link to electrocution deaths. 

It's also illegal for landlords to repair foil insulation - but if your home has foil in good condition, it may meet current insulation requirements in which case it's fine to stay there. 

If you see foil, do not touch it without first turning off the power at the mains. 

Since the foil ban, underfloor insulation is now commonly made of polyester, polystyrene, wool or glass wool. If insulation has been installed over the top of electrical fittings such as downlights, chimneys, heat lamps and extractor fans, it's a potential fire hazard. There should be a 10cm gap in the insulation around these fittings, except for modern LED downlights which don't require one. 

What if my home still isn't insulated?


Landlords have had three years to install insulation in their properties. Despite this, many left it until the last minute to get it done, with NZME reporting tradespeople have been overworked with insulation installations in the last month.

If, by today, your home still isn't properly insulated, report your landlord to Tenancy Services on 0800 836 262 or through their website. 

Landlords who have failed to properly insulate their properties are liable to pay their tenants up to $4000 compensation for subjecting them to a winter without proper protection. Property managers who work with landlords who haven't insulated could be fined as well.