On the 1st of July 2021, the first deadline for the Healthy Homes Standards came into effect. If a tenancy was renewed or a new tenancy commenced, a landlord had 90 days from the commencement of the tenancy to ensure that the property was fully compliant with the Healthy Homes Standards. All is well and good, but when a country is locked down and your rental property is non-compliant with Healthy Homes, your 90-day deadline does not stop – which means that a landlord could end up breaching Healthy Homes Standards and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it.
When it comes to assistance from the government in these days of lockdowns and pandemics, landlords never seem to get a look in. As a company, we are fully supportive of Healthy Homes. The poor quality of much of the rental stock in New Zealand has been highlighted by many in recent times. As more and more people rent for longer periods of time, healthy housing is essential for the well-being of our country.
However, as the first deadline came and passed, it became apparent that much of the housing stock that has been inspected for healthy homes compliance has fallen short of the standards required. This was highlighted by a nationwide company that carries out Healthy Homes inspections. Of the 14,000 inspections that it had carried out, only approximately, a quarter of these inspections passed current Healthy Homes standards. This will not come as a surprise for many.
However, what has been an issue is that the Government also admitted that they were having significant issues with their heating calculator. Many new builds were failing Healthy Homes inspections due to the open plan nature of many of the properties. The concern that the Govern-ment has is that the heating calculator is inaccurately overstating the heating requirements for the living space, meaning that many landlords are being forced to unnecessarily spending money on extra heating that is likely not to be required.
The roll out of Healthy Homes has therefore been seriously compromised by a heating calculator that is apparently not fit for purpose and a lockdown that is leading to delay times in getting properties compliant.
ACT deputy leader and housing spokesperson, Brooke van Velden, has picked up on the issue regarding Healthy Homes compliance. She recently stated that common sense and compassion must be used with regard to rental regulations. A level 4 lockdown means that tradespeople have been unable to carry out work that was required for the Healthy Homes Standards and there will now be massive backlogs. This may not be a major issue in Wellington where we had only to endure a three-week lockdown. Auckland, however, will have major issues.
Van Velden went on to say that ‘The Government said that all private rentals must comply within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy after 1 July 2021. This simply won’t be possible for some landlords now and it’s through no fault of their own.’ Some will argue that landlords have had plenty of time to
get their properties compliant and there should be no change to the deadlines. There is no doubt that landlords have had time, but dates are set so landlords can manage their time and resources. If unforeseen circumstances has meant landlords are not being able to meet deadlines, it is unfair to penalise them as there has been no intent to not comply.
Likewise, when you have a Government that is fully aware of issues with regards to their heating calculator, you may argue that from a legal point of view that it would be impossible to write an order against a land-lord when the compliance of a property is impossible to assess.
Then, to add to this, the Covid-related delays in obtain-ing stock such as heat pumps. Goods cannot be moved out of Auckland and in combination with a general shortage of supplies, this further compounds the ability to achieve compliance deadlines.
Brooke ven Velden has a strong case. It makes sense to extend the 90-day deadline until April 2022. As warmer months arrive, cold and dampness will be less of a concern. The extension will give enough breathing space for landlords to get their properties compliant without putting unnecessary and unrealistic demands on them.
We all want and require a warm and dry housing stock, we just want a bit of commonsense to prevail.
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