Lack of compliance sees tenants in substandard homes

The winter chill is still present and property inspectors are urging landlords to make sure their rentals are warm and dry.

By Louise Ternouth from rnz.co.nz

Compliance with healthy housing standards is still more than two years behind schedule since the law came into force.

Proponents say it leaves tenants helpless as they are stuck in moldy, drafty homes amid rental shortages.

Since July 2021, all boarding houses and private landlords had to ensure that their rental properties met the standards for healthy homes within 90 days of any new tenancy or tenancy renewal.

From July 2024, all rentals must comply.

The standards apply to heating, insulation, ventilation, humidity and drainage, as well as stopping drafts in a home.

Betta Property Compliance performs healthy home inspections.

Chief executive Matt Mason said while things like insulation passed, there were recurring areas of concern.

“So things like stopping drafts, we’ve only had a 46% success rate across the country on average, so one in two properties have only been successful that.”

Mason said about two-thirds of properties have passed the drainage and gutter check.

After an initial flurry of updates from property management companies, he said it is now private landlords who are scrambling at the start of new rentals.

But this poses some problems.

“We’re getting a lot of feedback from the market that they’re struggling to comply in time because of shortages and supply issues getting things like heat pumps or insulation or moisture barriers or draw stops.”

All Clear at-home testing group co-founder Adam Gordon said he was having the same issues.

Its data shows that 57% of homes assessed met all five healthy home requirements.

Gordon said landlords urgently need to get the upper hand and not rely on their tenants to stay put.

“So we’ve seen a lot of owners think 2024 is the end date. [and] plus this trend doesn’t end between now and 2024, they have all that time left to achieve compliance, the reality is that no one really knows when a tenancy will end.”

He said there needed to be more enforcement on private rentals.

“Relatively poor indication in the market around, you know how to run private owners and there are a lot of people who have just put their heads in the sand.”

Renters United spokeswoman Annie Bykova said with rent shortages in many parts of the country, it had become a lottery to see which landlords decided whether or not to comply.

“It’s pretty much in the hands of the tenant to go to tenancy court and start this big legal fuss about it because there’s no one they could just report it to and who would investigate. on it without his full involvement.”

This puts a lot at stake for people who need a place to live.

“We’ve even heard sort of anecdotal stories of landlords and property management companies having sort of blacklists of tenants complaining, or likely to raise issues that are really, really concerning and would certainly deter some tenants to express themselves.”

Joanne Ray, head of property management at the Real Estate Institute, was confident that landlords were making progress.

“Most of the property management organizations we deal with report to us that they are at least 70% of the way there, so there has been a real focus on getting the job done.”

In two years, landlords who fail to meet their obligations under the Healthy Housing Standards will be in violation of the Residential Tenancies Act.

They can be held liable for damages of up to $7,200, but only if the tenants go to court.

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