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The Long Game

Brendon Stuckey looks at the moisture ingress and drainage standard and explains why “set and forget” has no place in the rental market.

By: Brendon Stuckey

1 May 2020

As we move into the colder months, the need for proper protection against increasing rainfall is irrefutable. It can take just one rainstorm and a single blocked downpipe to cause significant damage to your property investment. As both a property manager and an investor, I’ve seen it happen countless times.

Fortunately, the Healthy Homes legislation directly addresses this often overlooked area. The moisture ingress and drainage standard calls for an efficient drainage system, an appropriate outfall and if the rental property has an enclosed subfloor, a ground moisture barrier. With a compliance date of July 1, 2021, it can be tempting to treat these standards like a “set and forget” checklist. However, the Healthy Homes Standards need to become a new focus for routine property inspections. After all, adopting the right approach to the quality of your rental property is essential for a rewarding and long-lasting investment.

Shift Your Mindset

One of the most important steps towards a successful investment is setting expectations and understanding the stakes. Investing in rental property is unique because as a landlord, you directly contribute to the health and safety of others. When you’re looking at a property as a financial investment, it can be easy to see maintenance as costs or overheads and forget there are real people impacted by your decisions.

‘If you intend on seeing dividends from your rental property, you will need a longer-term mentality’

The housing stock in New Zealand is largely from the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Many landlords grew up in the same houses that are rented out today, never experiencing problems with heating or dampness. As a property manager, I often come across landlords who refer to their own experiences when assessing their properties. It’s important to remember that lifestyles are different, energy is more expensive and houses are older. It’s not as cheap to heat a home as it once was and as properties age, roofs start to leak, dampness builds and the quality declines.

Adopt A Long-Term Outlook

If you intend on seeing dividends from your rental property, you will need a longer-term mentality than if you were buying shares. You can still look at your property investment as a spreadsheet, but make sure it’s a five-year view. Looking at the bigger picture, it makes perfect sense to fix the drip now. If a small issue turns into serious damage, you could be looking at costs for:

• Property repairs

• Rent reductions

• Rent compensation for parts of the property which aren’t usable

• Secondary accommodation for tenants if the entire home is uninhabitable

• Exemplary damage claims (up to $4,000)On top of these costs, moisture and drainage issues can be detrimental to the health of your tenants, impair their personal property and cause stressful tenant-landlord relationships.

Start Acting Now

From July 1, 2020, a statement of current compliance with the Healthy Homes Standards will need to be attached to all new tenancy agreements or fixed-term renewals. The first step to meeting the standards is inspecting your property.

I recommend finding inspectors that are:

• Certified Use a certified building inspector who has a thorough understanding of the standards.

• Accountable Confirm the inspector will take accountability for their calculations if challenged at a later date.

• Impartial Find an inspector that isn’t offering another service so you can feel confident that their calculations aren’t in conflict with your interest.

Improving the quality of your rental property is a win-win situation. It makes a better home for your tenants and a better investment for you. July is just around the corner, so it’s important to get started, do your research and talk to a professional.

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