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A room of exposed wall frames, with a standing ladder to one side

Not to be ageist about it, but according to the Government’s new Healthy Homes Standards (HHS), owners of older rental homes with long-term tenants will have until 1 July 2024 to bring them up to scratch. And if a new tenancy starts after 1 July 2021, a rental property must comply with the standards even sooner – within 90 days of the new tenant moving in.

For those who fail to meet the deadline, the consequences can be serious; not only can the Tenancy Tribunal issue a work order to force landlords to bring their properties up to HHS compliance, they can also hit landlords with financial penalties of up to $4,000 for any affected tenants. That’s a hefty sum. What’s more, the requirements – and cost – to get homes up to scratch can feel rather daunting. So, here’s a quick outline of the standards along with some quick-fire (and affordable) solutions to help get a home sorted.

The ins and outs of insulation

To begin with, landlords need to adhere to the Residential Tenancies Act, which require rental properties to have ceiling and underfloor insulation that’s at least 70mm thick (and in good condition) as at 1 July 2019. HHS states that insulation in all rental properties should be at least 120mm thick (by 1 July 2024 for existing ceiling insulation or after 1 July 2021 for new tenancies). They should also meet the 2008 Building Code, which outlines the energy efficiency requirements for homes, dependent on their location and climate zone in New Zealand.
So, properties that may comply under the Residential Tenancies Act, with ceiling and underfloor insulation, may not be compliant under HHS – and will still need to be upgraded. Clear as mud. Luckily for most properties, the standards can be straightforward to meet – and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. If you’re renovating an older rental home, there are a range of options, including the environmentally (and cost effective) Knauf Earthwool glasswool.

Considering economical, durable and energy efficient insulation that meets the 2008 Building Code (and is straightforward to install) is key. That’s why Earthwool glasswool is worth looking into. As a sustainable product with excellent thermal and acoustic performance, it keeps homes warm in winter and cool in summer. Also important is a product’s environmental impact and choosing renewable materials, instead of petrochemical based insulation products.

Pump up the heat

To meet the new standards, rental homes must have fixed heating devices in living rooms, which can warm rooms to at least 18°C. Think heat pumps for the most efficient way of using electricity, and ensure it’s the right size to heat the main living room to at least 18°C. For colder climates, a gruntier model of heat pump can perform effectively down to minus 15°C, or consider wood burners for colder regions (check the Ministry for the Environment’s list of authorised wood burners for your region).

In terms of heat pumps, there are various systems available – like the Mitsubishi Avanti Range, which offer five year parts and labour warranties, higher energy-efficiency (R32 refrigerant) and reduced costs. They also look sleek and have those bells and whistles, like allergen clear systems and 3D Auto Airflow.

Getting clear on ventilation

Rental homes must have the right size extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms, and opening windows in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. The rule of thumb for bathroom extractor fans is that you need at least 1CFM per square foot (length x width) of room area. The number of fixtures in a bathroom may mean that you need a larger fan, so consider adding 50CFM – 100CFM for each fixture in the room. If your bathroom has an enclosed toilet or shower, it’s a good idea to install a separate exhaust fan for that area as well.

It all gets a bit stuffy, but SmartVent is a cut and dried option. It’s one to look into, as they have a range of options for all types of homes. The sensor technology monitoring temperature & humidity also effectively control condensation, so they work in the bathroom as well as other rooms. When it comes to the kitchen extraction system or rangehood, they should be able to exchange the air in the kitchen at least 15 times per hour or every four minutes. Basically, divide the number of cubic feet (length x width x height) in the room by four to get the minimum CFM required.

It pays to choose the appropriate ventilation system depending on the size of the home, the number of rooms and size of extractor fans attached to it. Also decide on the best style of opening window according to the climate, for example awning windows are ideal for climates with a lot of rain.

Sort moisture and drainage

Rental homes must have efficient drainage and guttering, downpipes and drains. If a rental home has an enclosed subfloor, it must have a ground moisture barrier if it’s possible to install one. In subfloor spaces, install polythene sheeting that is at least 0.25mm thick over the ground under the house. This vapour barrier will restrict the evaporation of moisture from the ground into the subfloor space.

You can find high quality drainage systems that are cost-effective and easy to install. Consider channel and grate systems to remove surface water from flat areas fast. Everhard EasyDrain offer fully integrated surface water drainage systems. The simple ‘click-together’ mechanism creates a seamless connection to the stormwater system and the tough UV stabilised polymer material is ideal for residential areas. Don’t forget scoria-free engineered drainage solutions – Everhard provide enhanced drainage performance, strength, filtration and longevity. Engineered drainage is faster and easier to install than traditional drainage solutions, cutting installation time in half.

Get past draughts

The standards state that rental homes must have no unnecessary gaps or holes in walls, ceilings, windows, floors, and doors that cause noticeable draughts. And, unused chimneys or fireplaces must be blocked. A simple solution is foam seal, which works to stop draughts in gaps that can’t be plastered and painted, while chimney balloons can sort unused chimneys and fireplaces.

Moroday have foam door seals for sliding or swinging doors, which screw on simply and don’t require a door to be removed for installation. The seals work well on rough textured floors as well as slate or uneven tiles. There are even affordable self-adhesive weather seals that work brilliantly for domestic doors or windows.

While 2024 may seem far in the distant future, ideally all landlords renting out older homes should have upgraded their properties to meet HHS requirements by 1 July 2021, in case of a change of tenancy before 2024. Any upgrades made under HHS to meet the 2008 Building Code are sure to improve re-sale value for a healthy profit, as well as a healthy home. All the products in this article are available at Bunnings.

For more information, contact your local Trade Account Manager. To learn more about the products featured, visit our website at bunnings.co.nz.