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Mandating healthy home solutions in rentals risky

28 March 2019

Mandating healthy home solutions in rentals risks another meth debacle

The methamphetamine debacle, which spawned a cowboy industry almost overnight and ended up needlessly costing mom-and-pop landlords thousands of dollars, should serve as a timely warning to the New Zealand Government about the dangers of prescribing blanket solutions on landlords without proper scientific backing.

CEO of New Zealand healthy homes tech start-up Tether, Brandon Van Blerk, said regulators and media need to be careful to avoid hysteria over damp and mould in houses similar to that which gripped the country during the methamphetamine debacle.

“Mouldy, cold and damp homes are unquestionably a problem in New Zealand and are the cause of disproportionate levels of cardio vascular disease and death in our country, but mandating that every rental property must have insulation and heat pumps isn’t necessarily going to fix the problem.

“Some homes are warm without insulation, while others are damp despite insulation and ventilation. We are at risk once again of not treating each home on its merits. Instead, Government is forcing blanket solutions on people that could give rise to landlords being ripped off yet again,” Van Blerk said.

The founder of Tether – which manufactures low cost technology that measures the environmental conditions in a home in real-time – says that already property managers are telling stories of landlords being sold solutions they don’t necessarily need.

“Anecdotally I know of one landlord installing extractor fans in the bathroom to solve the build-up of damp and mould, but the fan didn’t make any difference. The solution ended up being a shower dome and lighting change.”

Van Blerk said it is not the role of Government to mandate solutions.

“Government’s role should be to prescribe standards. The requirement for living areas to be warmed to at least 18 degrees Celsius is a great standard, but how the landlord achieves that standard should be determined by the best remedy for each individual and unique house, not a blanket prescription.

“Government’s intentions are good and a step in the right direction, but the way they have done it is not effective and could stimulate the start-up of another cowboy industry,” he warned.

While in the past the ability to measure environmental conditions in a rental property was onerous, subjective and difficult to achieve to a quality scientific standard – one that would stand up in a tenancy tribunal hearing – that is no longer the case.

“The technology is there, and it is extremely accurate, cheap and virtually maintenance free. In provides real-time data 24 hours a day and seven days a week, whether people are in the home or not.

“Early childhood education centres, which have had environmental conditions prescribed on them for years, are already using the technology,” Van Blerk said.

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