The first Healthy Homes Standards deadline has been and gone, the Government however admits that its heating calculator may not be fit for purpose, throwing the whole Standards into disarray.
On the day of the first deadline for the Healthy Homes Standards, the Government made an astonishing admission. The heating calculation tool is having significant issues. What is apparently happening is that the heating calculator is over calculating what type of heating output is required for new builds and apartments. Officials advised Public housing Minister, Poto Williams, of the issue back in May but it appears that they decided to wait until the first deadline day, 1st of July 2021, before they publicly announced the issue.
Are we surprised by this admission? Absolutely not.
For a while now, we have been growing increasingly frustrated with the heating calculator. As I wrote in our last piece, the job of getting our rent roll assessed has been a significant undertaking and we have had issues with new builds failing to pass the heating standards due to the fact that the open-plan set up of the main living space is significantly large. It does leave you scratching your head as to how a new build, which has been granted consent by local authorities and complies with the Building Act can fail the Healthy Homes standards.
The irony about all of this is that an individual could purchase the property and move into it as their own home, yet that person could face exemplary damages of up to $7,200 if they rented the property to someone else I myself, have walked around some properties struggling to understand how new homes, with double glazing throughout could be deemed to be ‘not safe’. We have also seen properties with central heating fail as the assessor cannot calculate what the heating output of the central heating system is, as they are unique to the property.
How is the heating capacity calculated? The main living room must be able to reach a minimum temperature of 18°C. This is from recommendations from the World Health Organisation and has been adapted to the Healthy Homes standards. The heating calculator looks at the following aspects when calculating what is required.
● The floor area of the living room.
● The ventilation heat loss of the living room.
● The transmission heat loss of the living room, which looks at the building elements.
● The assumed minimum external temperature. For Wellington, this is 2°C , for Upper Hutt, it is -3°C .
This will then calculate the actual heating capacity required, in kilowatts, to ensure that the indoor temperature can be maintained at 18°C.
There are also concerns around the quality of work by some of the assessors. There is no official qualification or regulation of the assessors. This is a throwback to farcical ‘meth testing’ days when anybody could call themselves a meth tester, resulting in thousands being unnecessarily evicted from homes, whilst millions was wasted on decontamination.
Nobody is policing the work done by the assessors; how do we know that there is not a ‘conflict of interest’ in regards to assessors also making money from installing items such as heat pumps. And now, with this admission that the heating calculator has significant issues and needs to change, the whole process around Healthy Homes compliance has been turned into a joke.
Let’s be clear, every tenant deserves to live in a warm, dry home, especially as we are in the grips of a particularly cold spell. However when, by the Government’s own admission, the heating tools are overstating need, we are probably going to see expensive heat pumps being installed and left idly doing nothing as tenants find them too expensive to run.
The problems with the heating calculator also throw the whole heating standard into utter disarray. If there is a dispute around the heating system used in a rental property, I simply cannot see how any adjudicator could make a clear ruling against a landlord given the unreliability of the heating
calculator. It is also deeply dissapointing that many landlords would have potentially wasted thousands of dollars on expensive heating systems that they did not require.
There is also a sense of hypocrisy from our Government as well when it comes to the Healthy Homes standards. As of the 1st of July 2021, any new or renewed tenancies have to comply with the standards. However, the Government’s own housing portfolio such as Kainga Ora has until the 1st of July 2023 to comply, giving them an extra two years grace period before they must comply.
As frustrating as this is, there is a general acceptance that the Healthy Homes standards are necessary and our rental stock has to improve. We will work with what guidelines the Government provides us, and we will work hard to ensure that our landlords are compliant and that our tenants are safe and warm.
For any questions about the Healthy Homes standards, you can contact our team here at Tommy’s Property Management. Check us at at tommysrentals.co.nz