‘Healthy home’ rental property standards announced

The Government has announced new minimum standards for rental houses. The health aims are laudable, but are the practical or enforceable?

And will they result in more people dumping their property investments? This adds to financial disincentives for landlords, which will increase further if a more comprehensive property Capital Gains Tax looks likely as recommended by the Tax Working Group.

I wonder why this has been announced on a Sunday?

Standards to make homes warm and dry released

The new healthy homes standards to make rental properties warmer and drier were today announced by Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford.

The standards set minimum requirements for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage, and draught stopping in residential rental properties. They reflect feedback from a wide range of public health experts, stakeholders including landlords, tenants and building experts.

Phil Twyford said making sure all New Zealanders had warm, dry homes was one of the most important public health changes the Government could make.

“Nearly 600,000 households rent in New Zealand, and our rental stock is of poorer quality than owner-occupied homes. It’s estimated about 200,000 families live in rental homes that do not have ceiling or underfloor insulation.

“The Ministry of Health says 6,000 children are admitted each year for ‘housing-sensitive hospitalisations’. These children have been found to be nearly four times more likely to be re-hospitalised and 10 times more likely to die in the following 10 years. We cannot continue to accept this.”

The new standards go a long way toward making rental homes healthier for tenants:

  • All rental homes will be required to have a heater that can heat the main living area to 18oC.
  • Rental homes must have ceiling and underfloor insulation that either meets the 2008 Building Code insulation standard, or (for existing ceiling insulation) has a minimum thickness of 120mm.
  • Rental homes will also be drier under these changes as kitchens and bathrooms will have to have extraction fans or rangehoods.
  • Where rental homes have an enclosed subfloor space  property owners will need to install a ground moisture barrier to stop moisture rising into the home
  • The standards also reinforce existing law that says 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.

“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,” Phil Twyford says.

The next step is for the standards to be drafted in regulations and approved by Cabinet. The regulations will become law by mid-2019.

Compliance timeline for the new standards:

  • 1 July 2021 – From this date, private landlords must ensure that their rental properties comply with the healthy home standards within 90 days of any new tenancy.
  • 1 July 2021 – All boarding houses must comply with the healthy home standards.
  • 1 July 2023 – All Housing New Zealand houses and registered Community Housing Providers houses must comply with the healthy home standards.
  • 1 July 2024 – All rental homes must comply with the healthy home standards.

For more information on the healthy homes standards visit the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development website.

Shearer’s vulnerability on standards

David Shearer already seems to have turned his back on his own words. In February, in Stuff’s Shearer not buying into ‘gotcha’ politics:

“I’m not the kind of leader who believes in rival tribes playing ‘gotcha’, where bickering and partisanship are prized. Of course that’s what a lot of people look for. They want to score the game, give points for the best smart remark in Parliament. But that’s not what most New Zealanders want,” Mr Shearer told an Auckland Grey Power meeting yesterday.

He made it clear he would not be pushed into changing his timetable, or turn himself into the sort of politician he dislikes.

“I want a new kind of politics, pragmatic and attentive to what works, not tied up in the squabbles of the past … our future policies have to pass this test: `Does this idea help us achieve the New Zealand we want to create 10 years from now?”‘

He is now fully involved in  Labour’s ‘gotcha John Banks’ campaign. Has he already become ‘the sort of politician he dislikes’?

And is Shearer setting himself up for more exposure? He is pressing John Key to sack John Banks:

Key’s credibility damaged by clinging on to Banks – Shearer

“John Key is clinging onto John Banks for political convenience because he needs his vote. He’s doing that despite the fact three witnesses have given sworn testimony that John Banks knew about the Kim Dotcom donation. That is just not credible.

“The Prime Minister’s claim that he has no option but to rely on John Banks’ word is utter nonsense and desperate political spin. John Key is risking his own credibility by taking the word of a Minister whose reputation is in tatters.

“The Prime Minister has an obligation to get to the ‘bottom of the facts’, just like he demanded Helen Clark do in 2008 over Winston Peters. At that time, he said she should stand Winston Peters down because he had failed to put up a ‘credible explanation’ and had ‘misled the New Zealand public’ and the Prime Minister.

“It’s the same story today, but John Key isn’t applying the same standard. It’s absolute hypocrisy for him to turn a blind eye given his previous political attack on Helen Clark and Winston Peters.

“What he should do is summon John Banks to the Beehive and ask him face-to-face whether he has lied. Ask him why he told media and his own Chief of Staff that he didn’t know about the donation and yet Kim Dotcom, his bodyguard and his lawyer all say he did.

“John Key has no option but to sack John Banks or lose the respect of New Zealanders for failing to show the integrity expected of a Prime Minister,” said David Shearer.

And Shearer has clearly defined what he thinks what action Key should take, albeit confusingly saying Key should “get to the ‘bottom of the facts’” but regardless of those facts “has no option but to sack John Banks”.

John Key has found that claiming high standards can come back to haunt you (with the help of willing opposition ghosts).

How long will it take for David Shearer’s standards to be focussed back on himself?