Advice

Healthy Homes Compliance

A quick summary of the Healthy Homes compliance dates for all residential landlords and investors.

For more info call Jay on 021 836087


Heating standards compliance

Heating standards: Will you comply?

The heating standards under the Healthy Homes Guarantees Act has got some landlords confused over what is currently required and what will be required when the heating standards come into law. The heating standard does not come into effect until 2021 at which point landlords will have three years to ensure their rental properties are compliant.

However, the time between when landlords must comply and when they need to be complying has created a “limbo period” that seems to be causing confusion and has been highlighted in some recent Tenancy Tribunal cases.  We thought we’d give you a reminder of exactly what is required and when.

 

What is the heating standard?

All rental properties must have one or more fixed heaters, that can directly heat the main living room to at least 18°C, which is the World Health Organization recommendation for a minimum indoor temperature, and can maintain that temperature all year round. The main living room is classified as the largest room that is used for general/everyday living. This can be the lounge, family room or dining room. Certain heating devices that are inefficient, unaffordable or unhealthy will not meet the requirements of this standard. A portable heater will not meet the requirements from July 2021.

From 1 July 2021 private rentals must comply with the heating standards within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy. And from 1 July 2024 private rentals must be complying.

What size heater will I need?

You can find out the size heater you will need by using the heating assessment tool. The heating assessment tool will help calculate the heating requirements. It’s important to read the guides before you start, as you'll need the measurements of your living room walls, floor, windows, ceiling and any other features to accurately calculate your heating requirements. Once you do this it will create a report that shows the minimum heating capacity required. It can also be used to check if the current heating is sufficient to meet the standard, or if it is necessary to install a new heater.

What is the online heating assessment tool?

An online heating assessment tool is available in the Tenancy Services website that enables you to evaluate if their heater is compliant for that living room. After the user enters several parameters such as living area size, the wattage of the heater, etc, the online tool will produce a calculation that needs to be included with the tenancy agreement as part of the heating statement.

Are there any exemptions?

Exemptions are given for certain certified passive houses. These types of homes are warm, dry and have a low maintenance cost because they are built utilising high specification windows, insulation and automated ventilation system that can maintain indoor temperatures to 20°C year-round. Moreover, the exemption is also given to homes that are not reasonably practicable to install a heating device in the living area.

From 1 July 2020
Landlords must include a statement of their current level of compliance with the healthy homes standards in any new, varied or renewed tenancy agreement.

From 1 July 2021
Private landlords must ensure their rental properties comply with the healthy homes standards within 90 days of any new, or renewed, tenancy.
All boarding houses (except Kāinga Ora (formerly Housing New Zealand) and Community Housing Provider boarding house tenancies) must comply with the healthy homes standards.

From 1 July 2023
All Kāinga Ora (formerly Housing New Zealand) houses and registered Community Housing Provider houses must comply with the healthy homes standards.

From 1 July 2024
All rental homes must comply with the healthy homes standards.

We’ll be in contact with all our clients to ensure compliance, and if you have any questions regarding heating your rental property, please give us a call 093735400


Covid 19 - Corona Virus FAQ - Landlords & Tenants

Property Management - Landlords

Will my property continue to be marketed?

Yes, the marketing of rental properties will continue. Viewings are currently permitted but limited to two per day and only two people from the same bubble plus the property manager.  

 

What happens if my tenant has tested positive for the virus?

Anyone who tests positive is expected to follow the Ministry of Health guidelines.

 

What happens to my insurance cover if regular inspections are not able to be completed?

Regular in-person inspections are not possible during Alert Level 3. We have spoken to some of our main insurance providers and they have confirmed that there will be some leniency on a case-by-case proven scenario. We urge you to check your individual policy or to get in touch with an insurance company to instate insurance. Note that there may be stand down periods. We are requesting that tenants take videos and photographs where possible to provide to insurance companies if required at a later stage. Your property manager will store these photos on your behalf.

What if my property manager gets sick?

Our property managers are now working regular hours albeit shorter hours in the office from 10-2pm and outside of this working from home. We are committed and prepared to continue to provide property services throughout this pandemic.

 

My tenant is due to move out during the lockdown, are they allowed to stay in the house now? 

Yes, the tenant has the legal right to remain in the premises. For three months from 26 March 2020, tenancies can only be terminated under very limited circumstances. Any notices given by a landlord to terminate a tenancy prior to 26 March 2020 are not valid. If your tenant has given notice before that date, they are within their rights to withdraw it and stay in the property. If it was a fixed-term tenancy that was expiring during the lockdown, it will become periodic. Tenants can give notice to leave the property in accordance with usual requirements.  

The rules will continue until 26 June 2020. Although moving houses is permitted, tenants cannot be forced to move and are allowed to remain in the property except in very specific circumstances where termination is permitted.  

If a landlord gives a tenant a rent reduction, can they ask them to pay back the difference between the reduced rent and normal rent later on? 

If you agree to reduce a tenant's rent for a set time period, then on the expiry of that date, the rent will revert to the normal rent amount which is payable under the tenancy agreement. You cannot ask your tenant to pay back the difference between the full rent and the reduced rent later on. After the rent reduction period expires, the return to the normal rent amount is not considered a rent increase.  

A payment plan requiring the tenant to pay back rent at a later date is possible and can be discussed with landlords. Please ask your property manager for advice and guidance.

We are encouraging landlords to consider temporary rent reductions if they are in a position to do so, even for a short time. This is in line with the government's guidance that landlords should act reasonably towards tenants at this time if the tenant cannot afford to pay the full rent. 

Can I ask my tenant to leave if they are in rent arrears? 

Under the new rules, you can only apply to the Tribunal to terminate the tenancy if  the tenant has at least 60 days of arrears. The Tribunal can refuse to give an order requiring the tenants to leave if they have made reasonable endeavours to pay and if, after balancing the interests of the tenant and the landlord, they consider termination is not justified. We are working hard to direct tenants to WINZ and have had some success in obtaining payment for arrears through WINZ. 

 


Property Management -Tenants

Can I still attend a viewing?
Viewings can be scheduled for vacant properties and properties with tenants provided they have given written permission for the viewing to take place, and consent to the property manager and prospective tenants entering the property to view. 

You must register to view, only a maximum of two viewing times can be scheduled per property per day. A maximum of two people from the same bubble can view a property at each time slot.    

You will need to register to view the property through our online system which records your contact details (if needed for tracing purposes). You will be asked to answer several questions before being accepted to view the property, such as whether you are sick or have been overseas.  

Both property managers and tenants attending the viewing must limit touch of anything at the property, and apply social distancing as much as they can. Good cleanliness practices are essential such as use of sanitiser before entering and on leaving the property. PPE is not compulsory for prospective tenants or staff but may be worn by staff at their discretion.  

What do I need to do if I or another member of my household tests positive for the virus?

Please follow the Ministry of Health guidelines. If you are happy to let your property manager know please do so. They will treat this information with the strictest confidence.

 

What happens if my property manager is off sick?

We are a flexible business with reflexive staff members that can cover should a fellow property manager fall ill. We also have the capability to allow property managers to work from home. So, should your property manager fall ill, you will still be provided with property management services.

 

What should I do if I cannot meet my rental payment?  

Please contact your property manager as soon as possible and look at what help is available to you from workandincome.govt.nz. If you are not able to get assistance from WINZ to help pay your rent, your property manager will discuss any other options available to assist you at this time. We can discuss with the landlord whether they can offer a temporary rent reduction or a rent holiday or agree to a payment plan if your income has been affected by COVID-19 and you can’t pay your full rent. For example, if you can pay part of the rent payment each week, then a rent arrears payment plan might be possible. The options available in your case will depend on the landlord’s own financial position.    

Under the new rules, your tenancy cannot be terminated by the Tenancy Tribunal unless you have at least 60 days of arrears. The Tribunal will consider whether you have made reasonable endeavours to pay your arrears and whether termination of the tenancy is justified after balancing your interests and the landlord’s interests. It is important you talk to your property manager as soon as possible so steps can be taken to deal with arrears quickly and effectively.  

If my landlord gives me a rent reduction can they ask me to pay the difference between the reduced rent and normal rent at a later date? 

If your landlord has agreed to a temporary rent reduction for an agreed period of time e.g., four weeks, you are required to pay the reduced amount of rent for that time. When the agreed time period has ended, the rent will revert to the normal rent amount which is payable under your tenancy agreement. In this case, at the end of the agreed time period you will not need to pay the difference between the reduced rent and the full rent to the landlord. We are encouraging landlords to consider temporary rent reductions if they are in a position to do so, even for a short time. 

If your landlord cannot meet their mortgage obligations with a reduced rent being paid, they may be willing to assist you by allowing you to pay partial rent for a number of weeks, and pay the shortfall (between the partial rent and the full rent) at a later date in instalments via a payment plan. Talk to your property manager about whether this could work for you. The details of the payment plan will need to be set out in writing and agreed. This means you will still pay the full rent (as required by your tenancy agreement) but gives some flexibility by spreading the timing and amount of payments to help you manage at this time. 

 

Will general repairs still be conducted? 

Health and Safety works and Emergency repairs will still continue. We will still organise contractors/tradespeople but tenants must stay in isolation in a different part of the property while they are on-site. Our contractors will be made aware of this on their work order and they must adhere to this protocol. Routine maintenance will not proceed during Alert Level 3.

 

How can I pay rent?

Some banks will still be able to take cash payments, however many are limiting the numbers of branches that are open and their hours. Also, some ATMs have deposit functions and credits can be made via transfer. For those tenants that do not use internet or telephone banking, our property managers will work with tenants to find alternative measures when required. 

What about rent increases?

The government has announced a freeze on rent increases for a minimum of six months from 26 March 2020. 

 

What if I am about to move in or out of a property?

Moving in and out of properties is permitted during Level 3. Note that although moving house is permitted, tenants cannot be forced to move and are allowed to remain in the property except in very specific circumstances where termination is permitted.       

 

My lease is due to end and I don’t want to sign on for another full year. What happens now?

Normal practices will apply - you should discuss and negotiate your term with your property manager. There is an option to renew on a monthly basis (a periodic tenancy) that we can discuss with the landlord.    

How are we managing tenancies coming to an end or new tenancies that are scheduled to start during lockdown?

Yes, the tenant has the legal right to remain in the premises. For three months from 26 March 2020, tenancies can only be terminated under very limited circumstances. Any notices given by the landlord prior 26 March 2020 to terminate a tenancy are not valid. If you have been given notice before that date, you are within your rights to withdraw it and stay in the property. If it was a fixed term tenancy that was expiring during the lockdown, it will become a periodic tenancy. Tenants can give notice to leave the property in accordance with usual requirements.  

The same rules continue to apply under Level 3 and until 26 June 2020.  Although moving house is permitted, tenants cannot be forced to move and are allowed to remain in the property except in very limited circumstances where termination is permitted.  


Surviving life under lockdown!

COVID-19 has turned all of our lives upside down and despite many people offering a viewpoint that it’s a great opportunity to recharge and reset we know that actually this is harder than it sounds when mixed with the reality of working from home, flatting or family life. Here are some ideas for activities, well-being & coping mechanisms which we thought could help. We’ve come up with a list of what we’ve found most beneficial in these turbulent times.

Establishing a routine

One of the first things we did when entering the lockdown was establish what our routine was – it doesn’t have to be anything too detailed – even just setting a time to check your emails or go for a walk each day. We’ve found it really alleviates lethargy and the boredom of not knowing what to do – if you’re working from home it also helps with that age-old issue of procrastination!

Entertainment – for you and those tiny humans you might live with

This has been a key factor to staying sane when confined to our homes – we’ve been trying to get inventive with this and these ideas could be a great way to stay in touch with friends, workmates and family. We’ve had weekly quizzes on Zoom, ‘achievement’ bingo cards and a step and meditation challenge – with many more in the works!

If you have have kids at home, here are our tips on how to keep the kids happy, relaxed and (hopefully) tired by bed time. There is a wealth of resources online and here are a few we have found;

  • Save the Children have come up with a fun (and educational) way of keeping your kids entertained. A range of celebrities have recorded a series of stories for the Instagram page #save with stories.
  • National Geographic has an incredible (and informative) kids site filled with reading, games and competitions with a useful ‘what is coronavirus’ article,
  • Oxford Owl is here to ‘help your children learn’ and caters to all age ranges – and comes with a free eBook library!
  • A few other cool ones we found are; Circletime – filled with interactive stories, family cooking videos and even yoga classes, ABCYA brings you educational games and My First Garden is where you and your kids can collaboratively learn gardening skills from scratch!

 

Health and well-being

Mental and physical health is one of the most important (and hardest) things to maintain during this period. Keeping fit is key – apps such as My Fitness Pal have step challenges you can use and comes with a one week free trial for the Premium feature you’ll need.  Les Mills is also doing free workouts every morning at 9am on TVNZ and are also available on demand.

It’s not only physical health that you need to maintain but mental. What we’ve found is that communication is key and if you’re feeling low or lonely to try and get in touch with a loved one to talk it through – even if it does have to be over Zoom! We’ve also discovered some amazing wellness apps that could help; WhatsUp? – a wellbeing app with tips on how to support yourself, as well as lots of emotional health support and an SOS line, Calm – a mindfulness app for meditation and sleep assistance and Daylio Journal where you can keep a private journal and select moods and activities to correspond. Great for creating and analysing your daily patterns to increase well-being and productivity.

Food is an integral part of health and can also be incredibly uplifting. Getting creative in the kitchen is a great way to spend the lockdown – you could take the time to really perfect those skills you’re lacking like poaching the perfect egg or nailing a medium rare steak. It’s also something the whole family can get involved in – famous New Zealand chef Josh Emett is doing an incredible ‘how to’ series on his Instagram page using limited ingredients in which you can regularly see his kids helping out and enjoying the results!

This is a great time to support small, New Zealand owned businesses in a time of need. SOS Café has been created and it’s an incredible way of supporting your local café or favourite restaurant. You simply buy a voucher and use them as soon as you’re able. It could potentially mitigate a lot of the terrible consequences that COVID-19 is going to have on the hospitality industry and keep your favourite barista making your coffee!

If you’re struggling to find some items or just want food delivered to your door we’ve found this comprehensive list of what’s still available over the lockdown period – https://delivereat.co.nz

Upskilling

This is an opportunity to upskill – there are a huge amount of online resources that could be tapped into; use Duolingo to start learning a new language, listen to podcasts from Oxford University to broaden your knowledge or even learn to code for free using The Code Academy!

You can also use this time to educate yourself to directly benefit your career and work on the essential tools you need in the workplace by studying topics like problem solving or leadership and management. LinkedIn Learning has a huge range of technical, creative and professional courses that are free or low cost – with a one month free trial with access to all courses.

As this is a trying time for everyone (especially the financial impact) you may already know about FastConnect  (If you're a tenant with us we would have suggested using them)– a utilities broker that can negotiate better deals on your behalf and potentially get you discounts. Seeing as we’re all in the house a little more it would help to minimise your bills and be on the best deal possible! You can phone them for free on 0800 88 55 99.

Kia Kaha New Zealand!