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Hot Topic: Healthy Homes

You should start preparing your investment property for the new heating standard today, writes Ross Davidson.

By: Ross Davidson

1 April 2020

Insulation has been a hot topic in the New Zealand rental market for years. But heating is another element of the Healthy Homes Standards that requires swift action from rental property owners.

Although private rentals have until July 2021 to comply with the heating standard, in my experience, planning early can only be a positive. In 2019, the last-minute rush to meet insulation requirements resulted in a shortage of insulation materials and, for many, a failure to meet the deadline. Start your planning now so you can avoid unexpected drawbacks and consequent penalties.

Setting The Standard

Investment property owners across the country have felt that the new regulations paint them as the “bad guys” in the landlord-tenant relationship. In over a decade of property management, I’ve found that property owners generally want tenants to feel safe and comfortable in their homes. Happy tenants lead to regularly renewed leases, stress-free relationships and better care of the property. So, it’s understandable that property investors may feel micromanaged by the Government, especially when they have to personally foot the bill.

When our clients share these sentiments, I remind them that with every challenge, there are opportunities.

A key concern within our clientele is the cost. Although the enforced expenses can throw a spanner in your budget, any required change is likely to mean less mould, less dampness and less resulting damage to the property. By setting clear standards for heating, landlords and tenants will have clarity on their obligations, hopefully meaning fewer disputes. The heating standard has the potential to remove significant stressors from the landlord-tenant relationship.

Do Your Homework

If you’re a DIY landlord, it’s essential that you have a strong understanding of the heating requirements. Since the Healthy Homes Standards became law on July 1, 2019, there’s a lot more at stake if you get it wrong. It’s a big subject, but there is a wealth of resources available online. Get started with the Tenancy Services online heating assessment tool to find out:

• what size heater you need
• whether any existing heating meets the standards

Just because a property has a recent code of compliance, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it meets the heating standard.

Get An Assessment First

Before you head down to the local hardware store and pick up a heat pump, slow down and book an assessment. It can be a costly mistake if it turns out that your heat pump doesn’t have the right capacity for your property after you’ve already installed it.

We recommend using a certified building inspector to assess your property. It’s also worth asking for a full assessment, covering all six points of the Healthy Home Standards - heating, insulation, draught stopping, moisture ingress, drainage and ventilation. Once you have a comprehensive report, you’ll be able to use this to counter any potential claims and you’ll have an exact idea of the financial cost required.

Keep Records

Documenting results is an essential step in ensuring that as a landlord, you too experience the benefits of the Healthy Homes Standards. Keep records of any calculations you’ve done along with inspection reports, invoices and any relevant paperwork.

Ask A Professional

Building yourself a knowledgeable, experienced team is an easy way to reduce stress and ensure that your investment property meets regulations. Property management professionals can take your particular property and situation into account and create a plan that best suits you. We find that there are a number of alternative solutions that can be beneficial to both the landlord and the tenants while still meeting the Healthy Homes Standards. If you have an open plan home, adding in a door or upgrading insulation could cost less than installing additional heating for the entire space, while also keeping power bills lower. This is just one example of a win-win solution that an experienced property manager would know to suggest.

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