One rule for HNZ . . .


Today all rental houses have to comply with new rules for insulation.

By July 1, all New Zealand’s estimated 600,000 rental homes should have ceiling and under-floor insulation where possible.

However not all will, and landlords could be told to pay tenants up to $4000 compensation, with penalties of up to $1000 for property managers. . . 

Up to $4000 compensation is a big incentive for landlords to meet the new requirements and a big incentive for tenants to report landlords.

It could also be an incentive for some landlords to get our of renting houses.

Insulation isn’t the only requirement for rental properties. Minimum standard have also been set for heating, ventilation, moisture and drainage.

All rental homes will be required to:

  • Have a heater that can heat the main living area to 18 degrees Celsius.
  • Have ceiling and underfloor insulation that either meets the 2008 Building Code insulation standard, or (for existing ceiling insulation) has a minimum thickness of 120 millimetres.
  • Kitchens and bathrooms will be required to have extraction fans or rangehoods.
  • Install a ground moisture barrier to stop moisture rising into the home where there is an enclosed subfloor space.
  • Have adequate drainage and guttering to prevent water entering the home.
  • Block draughts that make a home harder to heat.

This will of course come at a cost. Some landlords might absorb it, but others will recoup at least some of the extra outlay through an increase in rents.

The timeline for compliance is:

July 1, 2021 – Private landlords must ensure rental properties comply with the healthy home standards within 90 days of any new tenancy, and all boarding houses must comply with the healthy home standards.

July 1, 2023 – All Housing New Zealand houses and registered Community Housing Providers houses must comply with the healthy home standards.

July 1, 2024 – All rental homes must comply with the healthy home standards.

Private landlords have to comply with the new standards in two years, the state landlord has four.

The Healthy Homes Standard do not go far enough to protect Housing New Zealand tenants from cold, damp, unhealthy conditions. There is no justifiable reason why Housing New Zealand would be given additional time to get its properties to meet these bare requirements of heating and ventilation”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty. . . 

The condition of the current Housing New Zealand homes means that even with insulation families are left in damp, cold homes due to the lack of proper energy efficient heaters and poor design. The cost cutting in the build of Housing New Zealand homes is passed on to tenants, who have to deal with high energy bills and healthcare costs. Insulation will not address the issue of dampness, which is a factor in our high rates of asthma and preventable respiratory diseases among low-income families.

“Our Government could be leading by example by strengthening the conditions of its own housing stock. Housing New Zealand is the biggest landlord in the country, yet it can leave its tenants in unsuitable homes for longer than the private sector. . .

Why is there one rule for HNZ and one for the private sector?

The government landlord be setting the example, not following two years behind.

Building regs go too far


A builder told me that recent increases in building regulations had added about $10,000 to the cost of a new house.

We ran into a relatively minor bit of extra red tape when we put a new house on the dairy farm.

It’s got a French door from the living room and the distance from the house to the path was a little higher than comfortable. I suggested raising the path but the builder said he couldn’t because regulations in the wake of the leaky homes saga required a minimum height.

He had to add a step which gets in the way of children wanting to ride bikes on the path – and this is on the side of a hill in North Otago where, with an annual rainfall of just 20 inches, leaky homes have never been a problem.

Even relatively minor alterations can turn into major ones because of over-strict regulations. Close-Up  last night told the story of a locksmith who wanted to put a shower in for employees and found the $2,000 budget would blow out by another $8,000 because the building code requires wheelchair accessibility.

The requirement for disabled access and loos in public buildings is understandable but the need for a wheel-chair friendly shower in every little business is going too far.

However, New Zealand isn’t the only place this happens. We visited a sheep feedlot in northern New South Wales which was built on stilts to keep it cool and make cleaning up the droppings easier. During the plannning the building inspector told the owner it would have to have a ramp so the loo could be accessed by workers in wheelchairs.

She pointed out that the nature of the work, which included shearing, meant it couldn’t be done by people with that sort of disability but the council wouldn’t budge because every workplace had to have wheel chair accessible loos. She finally got around the code by putting the loo under the shed at ground level.

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