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Landlords lag on healthy home upgrades

Landlords lag on healthy home upgrades

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

The HRV State of the Home Survey, conducted by research company Buzz Channel, found 58% of tenants said their landlords were yet to make any changes ahead of the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act coming into effect in July 2019.

The new law requires minimum standards for heating, insulation, and ventilation in rental homes to ensure properties are warm and dry.

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, is now in its fifth year and aims to gain an insight into issues facing New Zealanders in their homes.

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.

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

Majority want warmer drier homes

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.

“Rental accommodation is damper, colder, more mouldy, and difficult to heat. A quarter of rentals suffer from mould and dampness compared to 16% for homeowners. However, condensation is a real problem with 44% of renter’s homes compared to just 20% of homeowners having dripping windows most days during winter.”

While the most common way of staying warm for both tenants and homeowners is a heat pump, heater, or fire place, two thirds of renters also wrap themselves in a blanket (whereas only 43% of homeowners will do the same). Those in rental properties were also significantly more likely to wear warm socks and put extra clothing on compared to homeowners.

“It shows many rental properties are in a substandard condition and do not have an adequate heating source. Insulation also continues to be a major problem with less than half of rental properties having insulation, which is up from 36% in last year’s survey, but it’s still nowhere near what it needs to be to.”

I’m moving out

Professor Crothers said a key driver in the overall satisfaction of a renter’s living situation was a home that isn’t damp and mouldy.

These issues also had an impact on the general population with the prevalence of cold damp conditions playing a major role in why people move out of homes.

Key “moving out” results include:

• Seventeen percent moved out because their home was too cold
• 13 percent moved into a warmer house before winter set in
• Nearly 1 in 10 moved because the home needed too much work to make it warm and dry
• 10% moved because the home was mouldy and 12% because it was damp
“Awareness about the importance of having a warm, dry home has grown steadily over the last five years especially – and it’s not just an important issue for those in rental accommodation. All New Zealanders, whether you’re a tenant or a homeowner, realise the state of their home has an impact on the health and well-being of them and their family,” said Professor Crothers.

Renters worried about the future

As with previous State of the Home Surveys, the plight of renters extends beyond the condition of their homes and living conditions.

More than 40% were worried about the cost of renting and just over a fifth of people were struggling to pay their rent. There was also a big jump in those who believe they will struggle to afford rent in five years (up to 30% from a fifth last year).

“It continues to be tough out there for those who are renting, and it’s not at all surprising many of these people are worried about making ends meet in the future given the continuing rise of property prices and household expenses in general.

“With a warm dry home top of mind for many Kiwis, initiatives like the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act and the government’s Winter Energy Payment will help improve the quality of rental accommodation – and the country’s housing stock in general.”

ENDS

* This survey was conducted by Buzz Channel using an online panel survey distributed to New Zealand homeowners, renters and landlords aged 18 years and older. The total survey sample was 1080 respondents which has a margin of error of +/- 3%.

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