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Renters left out in the cold


15 September 2014

Renters left out in the cold

People living in rental accommodation are suffering from a lower level of health and wellbeing because of substandard conditions in their home, new research shows.

And homeowners who are struggling to pay off their mortgage are not much better off.

The State of the Home Survey, conducted by independent research company Buzz Channel, shows that renters especially are putting up with homes that are cold, less comfortable and continually mouldy due to condensation and dampness. They are significantly more likely to have mould “everywhere” in their house, with almost half reporting it in the bathroom, and a third living with mould and mildew on curtains and walls.

Results from the survey show renters and homeowners with a mortgage are similar when it comes to the impact the condition of their home has on their health, with a prevalence of persistent coughs, runny noses, sore and irritated throats, and red itchy eyes.

As a consequence those who rent and have a mortgage take double the number of sick days as those who own their own home mortgage-free.

The drive behind the survey commissioned by HRV is to shed light on the poor state of New Zealand’s housing stock and increase awareness around creating healthy homes.

Other key findings include:

• 50 per cent of renters and a third of those with a mortgage said the condition of their home worsened the occupants health

• 37 per cent of renters and 28 per cent of home owners with mortgage suffer wheezing and coughing compared to 15 per cent of home owners with no mortgage

• The financial costs of living in a mouldy, damp home are significant. Renters and those who have a mortgage are significantly more likely to suffer damage to carpet, walls, furnishings, clothes and shoes than those who are mortgage free

• Almost 60 per cent of all people surveyed said that living in substandard conditions adds to the level of stress in their life

The survey also gauged New Zealander’s reactions to the prospect of a housing warrant of fitness being introduced in light of the council-led rental WOF and the government’s state housing WOF trials conducted earlier this year.

Nearly two thirds (63%) of those surveyed said they would be happy for their home to undergo a warrant of fitness check.

“It would tell me if the house is healthy [and] what needs to be done to it to make it healthy,” said one survey respondent.
However, 40 per cent of renters were wary of the WOF proposal for reasons ranging from fear of their landlord putting the rent up to not wanting to “annoy the owners”.

HRV chief executive Bruce Gordon said renters and those battling to pay a mortgage get a raw deal when it comes to the state of the houses they live in and the resulting health and financial impacts that has on them.

“These people are essentially at the mercy of their home, and with insulation, ventilation and decent heating this can be addressed” he said.

Support for a warrant of fitness scheme is echoed by a number of political parties, with Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party promising to implement a rental housing WOF.

“People have told us that they are sick of being sick and that a warrant of fitness would tell them what needs to be done to make their home healthy, which is why we are eager to see this system put in place,” said Mr Gordon.

HRV sought specifics of the recent government trial of the WOF via an Official Information Act request but it was refused because it was still under consideration by Ministers.

“Meanwhile, people are still suffering. It’s not good enough,” said Mr Gordon

* Buzz Channel surveyed 505 people aged between 24 and 75 years. The margin of error on this sample is +/- 4.3% at the 95% confidence level.


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