Opinion: Healthy housing the goal of new rules – Jamie Strange

My wife and I used to be landlords, having two residential rental properties at one point.

We also spent seven years as tenants, before purchasing our first home in our late 20s. The majority of landlords and tenants are excellent, however as a country we have laws that provide safety and security where exceptions exist.

This coalition Government fundamentally believe that all New Zealanders should have access to warm, dry housing; it’s a key to living a fulfilling and productive life.

That’s why we have recently announced new rules to ensure all rental homes are warm, dry and healthy. These rules will require all rentals to be fully insulated up to the current Building Code standards and have a fixed heating source, such as a heat pump or wood burner. It’s important that we all have the ability to heat our living areas to a safe, healthy temperature, particularly in the southern areas of New Zealand.

Homes will also be drier under these changes, because kitchens will need to have range hoods and bathrooms will require extractor fans.

Most landlords comply with these rules already, but for those who don’t, they will need to upgrade their properties. This investment benefits both landlords and tenants, as it lengthens the life of the capital investment.

Education is also an important factor in healthy housing, such as: opening windows at the start of the day, closing them before sunset, and opening the oven door after cooking. All these help keep homes healthy and save money.

The Healthy Homes Standards aren’t the only one way the government is making sure every New Zealander lives in a home that is warm and dry.
We’ve also made funding available to help people who own their own homes, but can’t afford to insulate. Please visit the Energywise website at:

www.energywise.govt.nz/tools/warmer-kiwi-homes-tool to see if you are eligible.
Last year we introduced the Winter Energy Payment to help a million Kiwis keep their heater on during the coldest months. The feedback on this policy, particularly from pensioners, has been very positive. This year, the payment will begin on 1 May and run through to t October.

Nearly one in three New Zealand households rent, and for too long many have struggled to heat their homes affordably and efficiently. Around 200,000 families live in rentals that don’t have ceiling or underfloor insulation.

Of Hamiltonians, 42 per cent are renting, and many of these people would like to purchase their own home. We are actively working with developers around the delivery of affordable housing. New Zealand’s superannuation system works well when people own a freehold house; however, it can be challenging for those still paying a mortgage or rent. This highlights the importance of high home-ownership rates.

Our country needs a range of housing, rather than only four-bedroom/two-bathroom houses on 800 sq m sections.

We all have different house requirements throughout the various stages of our lives.
Scientific evidence from the World Health Organisation tells us that cold, damp housing can severely impact people’s physical and mental wellbeing. Mental health will be a key priority for this year’s budget, and housing is linked to this.

Many of us take the ability to keep our homes warm and dry in winter for granted. But it’s not that way for everyone in our communities.

These changes mean New Zealanders young and old will be warm and dry in the winters to come.

Three landlords hit with $17,000 fines for breaking the law

The Tenancy Tribunal has fined landlords in Auckland, Whanganui and Wellington $17,000 for illegal activities including misleading statements on insulation, failing to lodge bonds and allowing tenants to live in buildings listed as dangerous.

West Auckland landlord and boarding house owner Peter Wheeler, a Whanganui maintenance business and Wellington landlord Perry Rama incurred the fines for not meeting their obligations under the law, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

“The tribunal has recently made orders totalling nearly $17,000 against three landlords as a result of investigations launched by the tenancy compliance and investigations team,” a statement issued today said.

Peter Hackshaw, team acting national manager, said assessments and investigations were made proactively to ensure landlords were treating rental properties as businesses and meeting their responsibilities.

“Landlords who are not meeting their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act can expect to be held to account, as is the case with these three landlords,” Hackshaw said.

Wheeler, with five West Auckland places, was ordered to pay $12,344.64 for failing to lodge tenants’ bond money. The adjudicator described his actions as being “intended to avoid the need to forward bond money to the Bond Centre” and “to avoid future scrutiny by the Tenancy Tribunal”.

Wanganui Home Maintenance must pay $3563.52 after eight applications for failing to lodge bonds, failing to maintain premises and providing misleading insulation statements which the adjudicator said “…indicate[d] to the tenants that there was some insulation in the ceilings, which was not the case at all”.

Wellington Landlord Perry Rama agreed to pay $1000 after allowing tenants to return to their rented property while it was still the subject of a Wellington City Council dangerous building notice. He also agreed to pass the management of the properties on to a property management company, the statement said.

Hackshaw said tenants needed to trust that their landlords were complying with tenancy law from the start of the relationship. Failing to lodge bond money was a breach of this trust, as is providing inaccurate information on insulation, he said.

“If landlords don’t have the time and knowledge to manage their rental properties as a business, they should pass them on to someone who does,” Hackshaw said.

Anne Gibson

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12217049