There is some trepidation amongst private sector landlords at the prospect of meeting the new healthy homes standards for rental homes that have been set by our Government. However, we must not lose sight of why these minimum standards have been created and what they will ultimately achieve.
Currently there are almost 600,000 households in rental accommodation in New Zealand and they tend to be older and of poorer quality than homes that are occupied by the owner.
These measures will improve the standard of housing in New Zealand and will improve the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.
There are five healthy homes standards that all rental properties will need to comply with by 1st July 2024, and sooner if you have a change to a tenancy after 1st July 2021.
Let’s look at each standard:
A fixed heating device must be installed that can achieve a temperature of at least 18°C on the coldest of days. This temperature is a standard recommended by the World Health Organisaton for the minimum indoor temperature. It is important to note that this requirement is only for the living room of the property.
It is anticipated that in most cases the fixed heater will be a heat-pump or wood burner for the larger living rooms, however a fixed electric heater may be enough for smaller rooms.
If you have existing heating at your property, it may not meet the new standards if it’s inefficient, unaffordable or unhealthy to run. Examples of these are un-flued gas heaters, open fires and electric heaters (excluding heat pumps) – depending upon home size and the number of heaters provided.
An online tool will be available later this year to assess the requirements for heating the living room at your property. Your Harcourts property manager can perform this assessment on your behalf and advise you of a recommended course of action, if any.
Harcourts and Noel Leeming are working together to bring our clients a special deal* with regards to purchasing heating devices.
Properties managed by Harcourts are set to meet the 2016 insulation requirements by the 1st July 2019 deadline. However, under the new insulation standard, there is a new group of rental homes affected. The minimum level of ceiling and underfloor insulation must now either meet the 2008 Building Code, or for existing ceiling insulation, have a minimum thickness of 120mm. These affected rental homes will already have approximately 70-120mm of ceiling insulation, so the requirement is to increase this to a minimum of 120mm.
Adequate insulation provides health benefits through minimising heat loss and is key to maintaining a warm, dry and healthy home.
Ventilation is an important factor in preventing mould which can result in respiratory illnesses and worsening asthma. If that isn’t bad enough, mould can damage properties and belongings. Under the new standards, all kitchens and bathrooms must have mechanical extract ventilation. In addition, all living rooms, dining, kitchen and bedrooms must have windows that can be opened.
The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) is calling for the Government to make an exemption for shower-steam domes, arguing that these are cheaper and quicker to install than an extractor fan and don’t have an ongoing cost to run. Harcourts works closely with REINZ and will ensure that we are abreast of any changes to this standard.
Your Harcourts property manager is connected with a team of tradespeople including electricians and will be able to arrange the installation of any mechanical ventilation required. In addition, through our partnership with Noel Leeming, we will be able to provide discounts on kitchen rangehoods for our clients*.
Moisture Ingress and Drainage Standard
Properties must have adequate drainage and guttering, downpipes and drains.
If there is an enclosed subfloor, it must have a ground moisture barrier (if possible to install) that will protect the home from rising moisture.
Draught Stopping Standard
We can insulate and heat our houses; however, this is ineffective if we do nothing to prevent draughts. Guidelines will be made available as to how we can best prevent draughts, however the standard states that landlords must stop any unnecessary gaps or holes in the walls, ceilings, windows, floors, and doors.
If there is an unused chimney and/or fireplace, these will need to be blocked.
Your Harcourts property manager will be across these guidelines when they are released and can identify if there is any action to be taken at your property.
We can then advise you what work if any, is required to meet these standards.
As we typically inspect our rental properties every three months, we are taking note of what standards your property may or may not meet now, so we can get this information to you as soon as possible.
Your Harcourts property manager will then work with you to formulate a plan to action the required work to an agreed timeline. Be aware that the final date for complying with the new healthy homes standards is 1st July 2024, however if you have a new tenant or a varied tenancy after the 1st July 2021, you will only have 90 days to comply.
We anticipate that now the healthy homes standards have been set, savvy tenants will be asking to have these requirements met when looking for new rental accommodation. If the property they are renting does not comply on the
1st July 2021, you may find them looking for properties that are compliant with the new standards rather than remain in a damp cold home for another three years.
If your tenants leave and new tenants move in, you will only have 90 days to complete any work.
Smart property investors will want their property to be attractive to prospective tenants and/or retain their existing tenants and will therefore be planning to meet these standards before July 2021.
Find out more here.
Turn your rental property into a home
No matter if you are an owner-occupier or renting, we all have an instinctive desire to create an individual space we can call “home”. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is a house transformed into a home in 24 hours. Adding unique, personal touches and arranging furniture and possessions to suit your taste takes time, a commodity that is often a question mark for those who rent.
Rental agreements can end unexpectedly and the last thing you want is to sink a lot of time and money into upgrades to a property, only to kiss them goodbye months later. There can also be restrictions that apply to tenants when it comes to altering a property. Most tenancy agreements will typically include a statement that go something like, “no renovations, alternations or additions can be made to the premises without the landlord’s written consent”.
So before making any substantial changes to your rental property, take the time to understand your tenancy agreement, and if necessary write to your landlord or property manager, outlining what you intend to do, including the timeframe. Only proceed once you have received written approval, and understand any conditions that apply. For example, a landlord may ask that the property be returned to the original state if you were to leave. A wall may need to be repainted to its original colour, or a replaced light fitting to be refitted.
The bottom line is that while you may be seeking to renovate or decorate a home to your own preferences and comfort, a landlord wants to ensure the property remains attractive as possible as a rental, appealing to as many people as possible. When it comes to renovations, the typical landlord’s mantra is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Understanding that as a tenant your investment in decorating and creating a homely environment is more than likely temporal, and/or subject to your landlord’s approval, what are some practical options? Mobility is the key. Whatever investment you make, it’s preferable if you can take it with you.
Check out our advice below:
If you are to change fixed or ceiling lighting, make sure no extra drilling is needed. The original lighting can then more easily be returned (make sure you hire a qualified electricity when required). Changing floor and table lamps is the easiest way to add a bright flourish of your own personality to a home.
Updating kitchen or bathroom cupboard handles can immediately personalise or modernise a room. Store the original handles in a safe place to be returned in the event of your leaving.
Because they are more open to the elements, curtains and blinds are often the most obvious candidates for upgrading in a rental property. Upgrading to fresh curtains or opting for the huge range of alternative window dressings now available, quickly revitalises a room and gives you the option of taking them with you if needed.
A tasteful rug or two can not only add colour and texture to a room, but cover worn floors whether timber, carpet, linoleum or tiles.
Keeping in mind that many landlords do not allow nails or wall hangings, there are alternative ways to decorate walls with your own style of artwork. There are special adhesive tape frames that do not lift paint when removed, or you can place art on top of cupboards, leaning against the wall. The options are endless.
Indoor plants and flowers.
Whether artificial or real, a modest amount of indoor plants and flowers can create warmth in a space that no amount of furniture and fittings can. Care needs to be taken that the bottom of pots and water do not stain flooring, but plants can become the ultimate mobile decoration. View our Indoor Plants Guide here.
Choose furniture that is more likely to fit in any space or with a number of different colour schemes. For example, plain white or black furniture is preferable, as are lounge suites that can angle either left or right.
Although a cost effective way of dramatically improving the look and feel of a house, it can take a little elbow grease. Opting for a soft grey or warm white (rather than a dark colour) is less likely to lead to a landlord asking for a repaint when you leave.
By investing wisely in personalising your house with decorations and furnishings that are mobile and adaptable, you’ll be able to personalise wherever you may move, more quickly and with less cost.
The hassle-free guide to packing
So you’ve sold your house and bought a new one – now the work of moving really begins! Packing up and moving your family and all your worldly possessions can be a little daunting. So we’ve canvassed our Harcourts team and our Facebook audience to put together a few packing tips and tricks to help the whole process go as smoothly as possible.
- Pack paper plates between your dinner plates to reduce the chance of breakages. We’ve had loads of suggestions from Facebook for variations on this one such as using your tea towels, pillowcases, hand towels, face cloths or clothing instead of the paper plates to kill two packing birds with one stone! Layers of paper towels or folded serviettes is another great option – plus you can re-use them for cleaning when you’re unpacking.
- Pack fragile, awkward shaped items in inflated plastic bags if they’re too delicate to wrap in bubble wrap.
- Leave your clothes in their drawers and cover with newspaper to avoid having to pack into boxes.
- Use wine boxes to pack glasses and fragile ornaments. Then stack them inside other boxes for extra protection.
- Pack an “unpacking day” box so you have easy access to essentials such as the kettle, mugs as well as tea and/or coffee, as well as a few quick, portable snacks.
- It’s a good idea to also pack one box that will get the whole family through the first night, so you don’t need to rummage through everything to find bedding, plates, pyjamas and toothbrushes.
- When you’re moving with children it’s a good idea to have them pack a box of their favourite things as way to get them engaged and excited about the move – as well as reassured that their things are moving with them. Have them write their name on it or decorate the box so they can recognise it, and if possible, load it into the car or truck themselves.
- If you have a portable clothes rack keep your clothes on hangers on the rack collected into wardrobe lots covered in plastic rubbish bags. Then you can hang them straight back up in groups when you arrive.
- When you’re packing your boxes make sure you label them with the relevant room, for ease of unpacking.
- Take photos of all the cords plugged into televisions and other electronic set-ups, so you can reconnect them easily after unpacking. And label each cord as you pack.
- If you are downsizing, it can make the moving process less stressful if you pack and move some of your belongings into storage, rather than having to get rid of a lot of your belongings in the midst of moving.