Landlords, you may need to upgrade your rental properties

The healthy homes standards introduced by the Government as part of the Residential Tenancies (Healthy Homes Standards) Regulations 2019 (Standards) came into force on 1 July 2019.

The Standards introduce specific and minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage, and draught stopping in rental properties. If landlords fail to comply with the Standards, the Tenancy Tribunal may make an order of compliance or award tenants up to $4,000 in damages.

Upturn in tenant complaints

Since the Standards came into force, there has been a marked increase in the number of tenant calls and complaints to Tenancy Services. In the first five days of July, Tenancy Services received more than 500 calls about insulation related matters alone and 42 applications claiming a breach of the Standards. This illustrates that tenants are aware of their rights under the Standards. Issues have also arisen where landlords have attempted to illegally terminate a tenancy following a request from a tenant for the landlord to comply with the Standards. Such terminations can be considered a ‘retaliatory notice’ under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 and can result in the Tenancy Tribunal awarding damages to tenants.

What are the new requirements?

Landlord obligations under the Standards will be introduced incrementally. The first set, effective from 1 July 2019, are as follows:

  • ceiling and underfloor insulation is compulsory in all rental homes where it is reasonably practicable to install;
  • for any new tenancies or any existing tenancies that are varied or renewed, landlords must include a statement of intent to comply with the Standards in the tenancy agreement;
  • for any new tenancies, the tenancy agreement must also include an insulation statement that covers what insulation the home has, where it is, and what type; and
  • landlords must begin keeping records that demonstrate compliance with any Standards that apply or will apply during the tenancy.

The time frames for compliance with the remaining Standards are as follows:

  • All private rentals – within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy after 1 July 2021
  • All boarding houses – by 1 July 2021
  • All houses rented by Housing New Zealand and registered Community Housing Providers – by 1 July 2023.
  • All rental homes – by 1 July 2024

As a landlord, you should be aware of your compliance obligations and the required timeframes to avoid potential Tenancy Tribunal claims.

Other law changes in this space

The Standards are not the only law changes happening in the residential tenancies space. The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (No 2) passed its third reading on 24 July 2019. This Bill amends the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 to address issues related to liability for damage to rental premises caused by a tenant, methamphetamine contamination in rental premises, and tenancies over rental premises that are unlawful for residential use. The Bill will become law in the next few weeks.

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