In May of 2019, the proposed Healthy Homes Bill was officially written into law. The Bill contains several changes to the current standards that apply to rented properties throughout New Zealand, including our wonderful HiAtlas apartments in Wellington. Whether you’re someone who has never laid eyes on a legal document before or a seasoned landlord accustomed to meeting strict standards, the Bill will affect many of us and it’s always worth knowing what’s involved when a piece of legislation like this is passed.
The Bill, which became law on July 1stst 2019, aims to raise the bar for the quality of rental properties nationwide by addressing issues that are common to New Zealand rentals. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has said that over 600,000 New Zealanders who live in rented homes will benefit from the new legislation.
Private landlords have just over two years to ensure the properties in their portfolio are up to scratch, with several key dates along the way. By the 1stst of July 2021, all private landlords must have met the new standards within 90 days of any new tenancy agreement commencing on the property in question. On the 1st of July 2023, all properties owned by community housing providers, including Housing New Zealand, must be compliant with the new standards and by July 1stst 2024, all properties must be compliant, regardless of their ownership.
After being passed through Parliament in 2017, the Bill has since been developed and refined to include details around standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture, drainage and draught-stopping. The new guidelines on insulation state that a minimum of 120 millimetres is required, meaning that certain rentals that have already been insulated may need improving. The legislation also says that all draught causing gaps must be repaired, meaning no more unnecessary cold spots - in addition, a heating device is mandatory in the main living area to keep it at an acceptable temperature. Rules around dampness will become stricter too, requiring potentially damp areas of houses to have moisture barriers. Landlords must maintain good practice by retaining all evidence of work that has been done and keeping up to date records of how they are complying to the rules set out in the Bill.
Responses to the new rules have been varied, with landlords and tenants alike bringing forward praise and critique during its development. One particular issue has been the slow release of information regarding specific standards in the Bill for landlords to act upon in advance - A 2017 survey suggested that landlords were not doing enough to prepare for the new rental standards. Zac Snelling of Ray White responded, saying “how can one prepare for legislation that has not yet been confirmed or released?”.
The passing of the Healthy Homes Bill into law will mean a gradual change over the next few years for Wellington property owners and tenants alike. While the legislation may see some disturbance to our everyday routines in the form of higher investments in property upgrades and construction work being carried out, the long term results will undoubtedly be valuable and beneficial to all parties involved.
The new laws will mean that HiAtlas tenants can still expect the best from their rentals, with minimal works expected to take place on our selection of properties. The Bill promises to look after those who build a lifestyle around their rental home and we, as well as the landlords we represent, never miss an opportunity to improve and innovate on that promise.