• Healthy Homes Standards will drive up rents – Simon Bridges

    The new Healthy Homes Standards to make rental properties warmer and drier have been announced but National leader Simon Bridges says they will drive up rents.

    The standards set minimum requirements for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage, and draught stopping in residential rental properties.

    Bridges says while the standards are well intentioned, it will be tenants who will ultimately pay for the improvements.

    “What I do know is if you do all this in one big bang, say, ‘Right, let’s pile all this on,’ … there’s thousands of dollars of cost – who’s going to pay that? It won’t be the landlord,” Bridges told TVNZ.

    The new standards are:

    • All rental homes will be required to have a heater that can heat the main living area to 18oC.
    • Rental homes must have ceiling and underfloor insulation that either meets the 2008 Building Code insulation standard, or (for existing ceiling insulation) has a minimum thickness of 120mm.
    • Rental homes will also be drier under these changes as kitchens and bathrooms will have to have extraction fans or rangehoods.
    • Where rental homes have an enclosed subfloor space property owners will need to install a ground moisture barrier to stop moisture rising into the home
    • The standards also reinforce existing law that says landlords must have adequate drainage and guttering to prevent water entering the home.
    • Draughts that make a home harder to heat will have to be blocked.

    Housing Minister Phil Twyford said making sure all New Zealanders had warm, dry homes was one of the most important public health changes the Government could make.

    “The standards are pragmatic, enduring and don’t impose an unreasonable burden on landlords and industry while being mindful that renters need to have warmer and drier homes as soon as possible,” Twyford said.

    The next step is for the standards to be drafted in regulations and approved by Cabinet. The regulations will become law by mid-2019.

    Compliance timeline for the new standards:

    • 1 July 2021 – From this date, private landlords must ensure that their rental properties comply with the Healthy Home Standards within 90 days of any new tenancy.
    • 1 July 2021 – All boarding houses must comply with the Healthy Home Standards.
    • 1 July 2023 – All Housing New Zealand houses and registered Community Housing Providers houses must comply with the Healthy Home Standards.
    • 1 July 2024 – All rental homes must comply with the Healthy Home Standards.

  • Tenants claim landlords are failing to prepare for Healthy Homes Bill

    Less than a year out from the introduction of new healthy home laws for rental accommodation, almost 60% of landlords had done nothing to prepare for the changes, according to a new survey.

    The HRV State of the Home Survey, found 58% of tenants said their landlords were yet to make any changes ahead of the Heathly Homes Guarantees Act coming into effect in July 2019.

    The new law will require minimum standards for heating, insulation, and ventilation in rental homes to ensure properties are warm and dry, although regulations for heating and ventilation are yet to be released.

    “The first question I have is – how can one prepare for legislation that has not yet been confirmed or released?” asked head of Ray White property management Zac Snelling.

    “While it is safe to say that this Bill will outline new or updated requirements for heating, insulation, internal temperatures and more, we are yet to see any detail on exactly what is required of us and our landlords.”

    It’s understood, the regulations for the Healthy Homes Bill are set to be released sometime this month.

    So not surprisingly, just 1 in 10 landlords had installed new heating, and fewer still had talked to tenants about making their home drier and warmer.

    The response was different when landlords were asked the same questions, with 16% saying they have done or are planning to install new heating and 17% saying they had consulted tenants about the new regulations.

    The survey of more than 1000 respondents, which was commissioned by HRV and done in association with AUT Professor of Sociology, Charles Crothers.

    Professor Crothers said many landlords were under prepared for the new law, and while a third planned to put in new insulation, the need to make changes was not a priority for well over a third of landlords who said they planned to do nothing.

    “Insulation is great, but the new laws are far wider reaching with requirement for ventilation and heating options. It will mean extra costs for landlords, however on the flipside these improvements, and making a home warm and dry, will be good for the condition of the house in the long term,” Crothers said.

    “It has to be seen as an investment in their tenant’s well-being and into the longevity of their property.”

    The survey found 63% of Kiwis would like to be living in a warmer and drier home – with renters it’s even higher at 75%, compared to only 57% of homeowners.

    Professor Crothers said renters were significantly more likely to suffer from condensation, cold, mould and dampness than homeowners.

     

  • Tenancy Tribunal awards Wellington landlord Airbnb profits minus ‘service fee’

    The landlord of a Wellington apartment has been awarded the tenant’s profits from Airbnb.

    The tenant, Jeff Walter Patterson, had illegally sublet the Bellagio apartment, in central Wellington, on 54 occasions over six months.

    It’s believed Patterson made more than $12,450 but only $2,150 of those profits have been awarded to the landlord because the Tenancy Tribunal took into account net profit and ‘services fees’ the tenant would have incurred.

    “After deducting rental over the 6-month period, then the potential profit would reduce to $3150,” Tenancy Tribunal adjudicator Rex Woodhouse wrote in the order.

    “It can be accepted that in commercially renting the premises, as the tenant has done, then it is likely other costs would have been incurred, such as costs for linen and servicing of the apartment, as well as the tenants administration of the premises.”

    “In the absence of more accurate costing’s being presented, I will apply a nominal amount of $1000 for those costs. The remainder ($2,150) I will accept as a net profit figure for which any claim could be based.”

    The tenant had signed an agreement that said the property could not be sublet, including Airbnb and similar platforms, without the landlord’s consent.

    The landlord’s lawyer successfully sought an account of profits by demonstrating it was unreasonable to allow the tenant to profit from a breach of the tenancy agreement.

    Keith Powell, from Nice Place Property Management, says it’s not the first-time people have tried this.

    “I’ve never seen anyone do it so deviously and so purposefully, his lease agreement specifically said no Airbnb,” Powell told Newshub.

    It’s understood that this is the first time in New Zealand that the Tenancy Tribunal has awarded a landlord the profits from a tenant’s sub-leasing, rather than just exemplary damages.

    “There is a strong public interest, and interest for the landlord, in tenants not subletting premises without consent, as has occurred in this case,” adjudicator Woodhouse wrote in the order.

    On top of the profits, Patterson was also ordered to pay unpaid rent, damages for abandonment, sub-leasing, replacing locks and costs for door replacement.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Landlords blame extra costs as rents skyrocket

    Extra landlord costs are being blamed for higher rent prices around New Zealand.

    Just released March rental statistics show that New Zealand rental prices have continued to grow over the past year.

    “There have been so many cost and regulatory increases over the last few years that it isn’t a surprise that rental prices are increasing as they are” said NZPIF Executive Officer Andrew King.

    “Unfortunately the situation looks likely to continue.”

    In order to remove monthly variations, the NZ Property Investors’ Federation has averaged three months of rental prices for the year ended March 2018 and compared this to the same period in 2017.

    Overall, rental prices are up 6.1% to $433 per week. This is a higher price rise than during the last two years when rental prices increased 3.4% in the year to March 2017 and 3% in the year to March 2016.

    Hutt Valley had the largest increase at 17.1% to $413pw. However this area can be quite volatile due to low numbers of new rentals. Porirua was next with an 11.6% increase to $407pw, although Porirua statistics can also be quite volatile. Wellington Central rents increased by 6.8% showing that the region overall had the highest rental price increases.

    Nelson saw the third highest rental price rises at 9.2% to $382.

    Auckland rental increases ranged from 4.2% in Waitakere to 5.2% on the North Shore.

    Twelve of the 17 main areas had rental price increases below the national average, indicating that rental price increases in the regions are growing quite strongly.

    In Christchurch, rental price falls over the last few years appear to have bottomed out. While the 3.8% increase in Christchurch rental prices to $386 is lower than the national average, it is the first time that rental prices have shown an increase since 2014.

     

  • Time to punish landlords who exploit tenants with unfair rent rises – Robertson

    Finance Minister Grant Robertson has called for Wellington tenants to dob in dodgy landlords who are unfairly raising rents.

    As students return to Wellington, the rental housing market is heating up and some landlords appear to be significantly raising rents to take advantage of student allowance increases.

    “My office has heard from Wellington renters who have suddenly had their rent increased by $50 a week – exactly the amount that the maximum loan living costs will be increasing by this year,” Robertson, who is the Wellington Central MP, said. 

    “There are other stories of rent auctions and supplementary payments that are adding to the squeeze on renters.”

    “Landlords will increase rents from time to time, but this should be fair and reasonable. These kinds of rent increases look like exploitation, and like they are taking advantage of a group of vulnerable people in a tight market.”

    While it’s currently lawful for landlords to raise rents to reflect market rates, Robertson says those who cross this line should be punished.

    “The Government is committed to working with the Wellington City Council and private developers to increase the supply of rental accommodation. We are also reviewing the Residential Tenancies Act to improve the rights of renters. But these steps will take time, he said.

    “In the meantime, tenants who are experiencing these unfair rent rises should get in touch with my electorate office. It is important to find out which landlords are taking advantage of their tenants, and then take action to expose this, and where possible to stop this practice.”

  • Heat goes on Auckland landlord for not having smoke alarms

    The Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team has successfully taken an Auckland landlord to the Tenancy Tribunal for failing to install smoke alarms, giving all landlords in this busy rental market a timely reminder to ensure their properties comply with smoke alarm legislation.

    The Tenancy Tribunal has ordered Auckland landlord Arie Peter Sterk pay $2000.00 in exemplary damages for failing to have smoke alarms installed in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act and Regulations.

    Mr Sterk has also been restrained from committing the same unlawful act for six years or will face further legal action.

    Steve Watson, National Manager Tenancy Compliance and Investigation team, said this outcome serves as a strong reminder to all landlords that failing to comply with tenancy laws will not be tolerated.

    “By failing to meet his legal obligations, Mr Sterk deprived his tenant of a warm, dry, and safe home, and put them at risk if there had been a fire,” Mr Watson said.

    “It is important landlords realise not installing smoke alarms correctly isn’t only a legal compliance issue, but something that can have a very real effect on tenants.

    “When a landlord rents a property, they must have at least one working smoke alarm on each level, either in each bedroom, or within three metres of the bedroom door.”

    “Landlords are running a business and your rental property is your product – it must tick all the boxes when it is being offered to rent to the public.”

    Landlords can download the Compliance Checklist from the Tenancy Services website (www.tenancy.govt.nz) to ensure they are fully compliant with their obligations.

    The Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team was established following the changes to the Residential Tenancies Act that came into effect on 1 July 2016.

    The Team focuses on significant or ongoing breaches of the Act which pose a significant risk to vulnerable tenants.

  • Small changes can heat up rental properties

    Even minor improvements to new buildings can make a significant difference to tenants’ comfort, new research from the University of Otago has found.

    The researchers found that eliminating draughts in newly built houses increases the indoor temperature by more than one degree Celsius on average, and say it is a worthwhile step to undertake when looking to improve housing warmth.

    “We looked at the impact of eliminating draughts using simple measures such as sealing strips on doors and baffles in range hoods, and found these measures could increase indoor temperatures by 1.36oC on average,” lead researcher Lara Rangiwhetu from the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago said.

    The research was commissioned by the Wellington City Council in response to tenants’ concerns about draughts in newly constructed Council buildings in Miramar. The Council approached the He Kainga Oranga Healthy Housing team at the university to look at the temperatures and relative humidity of the housing.

    Following on from He Kainga Oranga’s previous work showing that insulation and heating increase indoor temperature, this new study showed that even in new builds, draughts can lower temperatures to unhealthy levels.

    “This is of particular concern given that Statistics New Zealand has shown that 29% of Kiwi households suffer some form of energy hardship and New Zealand continues to have high rates of excess winter mortality and morbidity,” Ms Rangiwhetu said.

    Other temperate countries, such as the UK, have seen a documented increase in indoor temperature with average temperatures now above recommended levels.

    “Policies should be enacted to ensure indoor house temperatures in New Zealand reach at least similar levels. Eliminating draughts with simple improvements is a very worthwhile step to undertake when looking to improve housing warmth,” Ms Rangiwhetu concluded.

     

  • Home buying ambitions high among Auckland renters

    A survey of Auckland renters has found a strong majority maintained their ambition to own a home of their own – with 59% saying they intended to buy in the next two-to-five years.

    The Barfoot & Thompson survey was conducted in August and discovered some surprising results.

    “We were taken by surprise by the positive response around buying a home in the next few years. It’s very encouraging particularly given much of the recent commentary around it has been negative,” says Barfoot & Thompson Director Kiri Barfoot.

    “From the media reports, I would have expected fewer renters to say that they are aiming to buy a home, but perhaps there has been a change in sentiment towards the future of buying a house.”

    A random sample of one thousand tenants (response rate 31%) from its database of 15,000 tenants were contacted.

    Renters were asked what the important factors were in choosing a rental property.

    88% of respondents said price, and 85% said location. The number of bedrooms (67%), and kitchen space (52%) were also important.

    The most popular ‘extras’ influencing renters’ choice in a property included additional car parking spaces (57%) and extra storage space (53%). Outdoor space, a fully fenced section, and pets being allowed were also popular; each considered an influential factor in choosing a property by over 40%. Spa pools proved popular with just 13%.

    When asked who they would prefer to manage their tenancy, 48% of respondents said they would prefer a professional agency, 25% said an owner, and 28% said they had no preference for one or the other.

     

  • Significant Anderson v FM Custodians decision could signal change of tide

    A Tenancy Tribunal Adjudicator in Christchurch has delivered an order that could signal the days of full rent refunds for tenants are numbered.

    The Anderson v FM Custodians High Court judgement from 2013 has caused havoc in the residential rental industry over the past 12 months.

    Following that decision, many tenancies have been rendered unlawful because of non-consented work.

    Consequently, a growing number of tenants have been awarded full refunds of rent, sometimes totalling tens of thousands of dollars.

    But Adjudicator Armstrong has gone against the tide, saying in a Tenancy Tribunal order that the tenants weren’t entitled to a full refund of rent.

    “This order comes as a welcome relief for landlords who have been reeling from the tide of the decision adopting the Anderson approach,” tenancy consultant Scotney Williams said.

    “This decision swims against that tide and casts doubt on the rationale in the Anderson case.”

    Adjudicator Armstrong acknowledged that the tenants, Bethani Edwards and Brett Townsend, rented a dwelling off Wongeoon Vast Limited that had neither a building consent nor a resource consent.

    But unlike other Adjudicators, Armstrong argued Section 137 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, has been misinterpreted.

    “I would find it very difficult to accept that Parliament intended that the Tribunal must order a landlord to repay to a tenant all rent paid by the tenant in every case where, for whatever reason, the premises could not be lawfully occupied by the tenant,” Armstrong wrote in this order.

    Section 137 

    Section 137 alludes to the fact that you cannot enter into a contract that contravenes the provisions of the Act, and that any money paid under the contract is recoverable to the tenant.

    Armstrong argues that Section 137, subsection 4, refers to money paid provided by the tenant “for the tenancy”.

    “The conclusion that I have come to is that the expression “for the tenancy” is intended to refer to payments such as premiums for a tenancy or other payments not in the nature of rent.”

    “Rent is generally regarded as payment for the use and occupation of the premises rather than for the “tenancy” as such.

    “Payment “for the tenancy” is more apt to refer to payment for the granting of the tenancy rather than payment in the nature of rent.”

    As a result, Armstrong ordered the bond of $1,180 to be paid to the tenants.

    “Only a further appeal from either side will clarify the uncertainty which now exists”, Williams, from the Tenancy Practice Service, said.

    Multiple tenants have been awarded full rent refunds over the 12-18 months.

    The most infamous case involved Dunedin landlord Vic Inglis, being ordered to pay back his former tenant Natalie Parry nearly $11,000

    Inglis has appealed the decision to the District Court, in a judgement that will be eagerly anticipated by the tenancy industry.

     – Report by Chris Matthews 

  • Healthy Homes Bill ‘must deliver for tenants’ – New Zealand Green Building Council

    Delivering a Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill in 100 days is the first important task on the desk of new Housing Minster Phil Twyford.

    The Bill, which is awaiting its Third Reading before being passed into law, requires minimum rental home standards for insulation, heating, ventilation,and drainage.

    But the New Zealand Green Building Council (NGBC) warned that the Bill would not be successful if these standards, which have not yet been set, were not set high enough.

    “Phil Twyford’s got a big task ahead of him as Housing Minister. New Zealand homes just aren’t good enough. Our houses are making our children sick,” NGBC chief executive Andrew Eagles said.

    “The Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill is an excellent opportunity to improve our homes. The important standards of insulation, heating, ventilation and drainage have not yet been set. We know how important it is to get the balance right with standards, as we are very experienced in creating such standards for existing buildings and homes.

    “If these standards are set too low, it will be a huge missed opportunity. And it’s important too that these strong standards are balanced by being straightforward to implement.

    According to the 2013 census, over 450,000 households rented their home. Eagles believes the Bill will be a huge boost for this growing faction of society.

    “A strong Bill would be great news for the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who rent their homes, would also provide an important way for landlords to ensure their properties are being protected from mould and damp, and would be a clear message from this new government that they can deliver the healthy, safe, efficient buildings that all New Zealanders deserve.”

    The NZGBC is a non-profit organisation that works to ensure all New Zealanders live, work and play in safe, healthy, efficient buildings.