Renting a freezing cold property in Queenstown with no heatpump, no insulation and the wind whistling through gaps in the window frames will soon be a thing of the past.
Landlords have been given deadlines to make their properties meet minimum standards.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters announced on last Monday the government’s Healthy Homes standards have been officially signed off and will become law on July 1.
Rental homes must have a heater that can heat the main room to 18 degree Celsius. Draughts must be blocked. Under-floor and ceiling insulation must be more than 120mm thick or meet the 2008 Building Code. Kitchens and bathrooms must have extractor fans or range-hoods. Ground moisture barriers must be installed into enclosed subfloor spaces. And drainage and guttering must be adequate.
Landlords must ensure compliance within 90 days of any new tenancy from July 2021. All rental homes must comply with the standards by July 2024.
But Jordana Whyte of Cosy Homes, a charitable trust aiming to make all Otago homes warm and healthy by 2025, says the legislation doesn’t go far enough.
“For me the biggest miss was around the heating requirements, it only being required for the living areas,” she says.
“My strong preference would be it was required for the bedrooms as well.”
The World Health Organisation put out its guidelines in February, after years of evidence-based research, stating the habitable areas of a house, including bedrooms, should be at 18degC.
“We know from heaps of evidence we should be breathing in dry, warm air while sleeping, in particular young children and old people, so that’s quite disappointing.”
Whyte says the 2024 deadline is also too far out. Long-term tenants shouldn’t be punished, especially as the work is not expensive, she says.
“It’s a start but from our perspective the emphasis is on the ‘minimum’.”
Craig Dow is general manager of Queenstown Accommodation Centre, which manages more than 500 homes. He welcomes the new legislation.
“We’re well ahead of the game and I think it’s a good thing. Landlords should be providing tenants with good quality premises to live in, especially somewhere like Queenstown which is so high.”
QAC has already been working to improve insulation and warmth.
“The professional companies are there to be honest, it’s the private landlords who aren’t doing the right things anyway who are going to come unstuck.”
The Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust conducted a survey of 1000 renters back in 2016.
Many tenants said cold properties was a problem.
Trust executive officer Julie Scott says: “We get a lot of feedback from people on our waiting list about how cold some rental homes are.
“I think the legislation will only have a positive impact in general. The rents here are so astronomical and out of line with the rest of the country that landlords can and should be able to afford to make these changes.”
Councillor John MacDonald, who chaired the mayoral housing taskforce, says here are “way too many homes that are sub-standard”.
While some might not be economic to upgrade, impacting the rental market, “in the long run it’s got to be better to have healthy homes to live in”.