Government toughens healthy home standards

The Government believes upping standards for rental homes could save lives, announcing new standards on Sunday.

Every rental home will soon be required to have a heater in the living room and an extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom.

Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford says current standards are impacting health.

"Approximately 1600 mostly older New Zealanders die premature deaths every winter," he says.

"That is in large part caused by cold damp housing."

What the proposals mean

  • All rental homes must have a heater that can heat the main living area to 18degC
  • They must have insulation that meets the 2008 Building Code standard, or has a minimum thickness of 120mm
  • Kitchens and bathrooms will have to have extraction fans or rangehoods
  • Homes that have an enclosed subfloor space will need an ground moisture barrier
  • Landlords must have adequate drainage and guttering to prevent water entering the home
  • Draughts that make a home harder to heat will have to be blocked

A 2016 survey revealed half of rental homes are mouldy, yet most landlords are ignoring the problem.

The HRV State of Home Survey questioned 1450 people about the quality of their rental properties and found mould is prevalent in 48 percent of all homes rented.

Charles Crothers, professor of sociology at AUT, says the survey shows New Zealand is now in a "renters-versus-the rest situation".

"Those who are renting are more likely to suffer a lot, with a quarter suffering from a cold home and 20 percent living in houses that are difficult to heat," he said at the time.

The survey highlights a stark difference between the mentality of landlords and their tenants. Forty percent of tenants said they would like their landlords to make their homes healthier, however only one-quarter of landlords would like to make the investment.

Almost 40 percent of renters have contacted their landlords about the cold, damp and mouldy conditions of their homes, but many owners were unwilling to do anything about it - 56 percent of landlords did nothing about their complaints.

The new regulations will become law by the middle of this year, and Mr Twyford says it's in line with the Government's wellbeing theme.

"What could be more important to wellbeing than ensuring that all New Zealanders have a warm dry place to live."

Landlord Lynley Thomas says the new standards are reasonable and good landlords shouldn't have much to change anyway.

"Obviously from a landlord's point of view you don't like being told to spend money, but it's all doable."

But National Party leader Simon Bridges told The AM Show last year that while the changes are well-intentioned, they will ultimately hurt renters.

"The Government has already done a bunch of well-meaning things in terms of healthy things, taxes and the like on landlord," he explained.

"What do the landlords do? I'll tell you what they do - they pass the cost on to the poor old renter. So by being kind, they're being cruel."

Mr Twyford rejected that on Sunday.

"The standards are pragmatic, enduring and don't impose an unreasonable burden on landlords and industry while being mindful that renters need to have warmer and drier homes as soon as possible."