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In 2019, Tenancy Services ran a series of seminars throughout the country known as the 2019 Renting and You Roadshow. We presented information on the healthy homes standards 2019 and the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019.

High interest in the seminars led to a large number of questions, some of them quite technical in nature, that we weren’t able to answer at the time. The following information answers a summary of those questions, and includes some other frequently asked about topics.

This information will further help you understand what rights and responsibilities both landlords and tenants have under these new pieces of tenancy legislation. 

Healthy homes standards questions and answers

Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 questions and answers

General tenancy questions and answers


1. Heating

What the law says:

The property must have one or more fixed heaters that can directly heat the main living room. The total heating in the main living room must meet the required heating capacity for that space as determined using the calculation in the standard or online heating assessment tool provided.

18 degrees vs heater capacity - what is the best way to show compliance with the heating standard?

The only way to show compliance is if the heating capacity matches or exceeds the capacity required by the heating assessment tool. The calculation in the heating assessment tool is based on specifying a heater with sufficient capacity that is capable of heating the main living room to 18 degrees on the coldest day of the year.  

18 degrees was chosen because this is the minimum indoor temperature recommended by the World Health Organization.

Use the Tenancy Services heating assessment tool, or the calculation provided in the standards, to determine the required heating capacity for the main living room that is being heated. Keep any records, including the report from the heating assessment tool or an assessment from a heating professional (who has used the calculation), as well as receipts of purchase or product user manuals as evidence you have installed heating devices that can reach the correct capacity.

Heating Assessment Tool

Healthy Home Standards – Schedule 2 – heating capacity of qualifying heaters in the main room(external link)

Read more information about the heating standard, including our detailed guidance document.

Do we have to provide a heat pump to meet the heating standard? If so, who is responsible for servicing?

No, it doesn’t have to be a heat pump. The heating standard requires a fixed heater with the capacity to efficiently heat the main living room. Other appropriate and acceptable fixed heating sources that are maintained in good working order can be used instead of a heat pump – for example, woodburners or ducted heating systems. There are a number of organisations that can provide information and advice on suitable heaters:

Use the Tenancy Services heating assessment tool, or the calculation provided in the standards, to determine the correct capacity for the main living room that is being heated.  The result will help to determine the most efficient heater(s) needed to heat the space.

There are heaters that are not able to be used to meet the heating standard, as they are either inefficient or unhealthy. This list of unacceptable heaters is below:

  • unflued combustion heaters, such as portable LPG bottle heaters
  • open fires
  • heating devices that are less than 1.5 kilowatts
  • electric heaters (except heat pumps) where the required heating capacity is more than 2.4 kilowatts.

Landlords are responsible for maintaining any heaters and ventilation systems. Tenants are responsible for keeping heaters reasonably clean and tidy. This forms parts of the general landlord and tenant responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 to maintain the rental property. For example, the landlord is responsible for servicing a heat pump, and the tenant is responsible for keeping the vents clean, for example, by dusting or wiping the vents down. It is in the best interest of the landlord to ensure the heater is serviced to maximise its lifetime and in some cases may be required by the landlord’s insurance provider.

Read more information about the heating standard, including our detailed guidance document.

2. Insulation

What the law says:

Ceiling and underfloor insulation has been compulsory in rental homes since 1 July 2019, unless an exemption applies. The healthy homes insulation standard builds on that and in some cases existing insulation will need to be topped up or replaced.

How often do landlords need to physically check the insulation?

There is no specific timeframe outlined in the standards for how often a landlord needs to check insulation. Regularity of checking insulation depends on the type of insulation used and the property itself. Unlike other maintenance issues, it is not something that a landlord can expect to be notified about by their tenant, as tenants are unlikely to become aware of any problems with the insulation’s condition.

Landlords can choose to physically check insulation themselves or seek an assessment from an insulation professional. If checking yourself, you will need to safely enter the ceiling cavity and/or subfloor space.

A landlord should schedule into their maintenance plan how often they will check their insulation to monitor its condition. In some instances, due to design or safety, a landlord may need a professional to assess their insulation for them and ensure it is still in a reasonable condition.

It might be worth looking into the performance guarantee provided by certain insulation manufacturers for their products, which could help determine how often landlords will need to inspect their insulation.

If the house meets the Residential Tenancies Act 2016 insulation requirements because you needed to install new insulation or upgrade existing insulation, it is likely that it meets the healthy homes standard as long as the insulation is still in reasonable condition e.g. no water damage, no major holes or tears. Check the condition of your insulation and ensure it will meet the standards and keep records of your findings or documents relating to any newly installed insulation.

The insulation guidance can provide more detailed information about what’s changed from the 2016 insulation requirements, required R-values, required thickness levels, and general exemptions.

Healthy homes standards - insulation guidance [PDF, 1.1 MB]

Use the online tool to find out if insulation needs to be upgraded to meet the healthy homes standards.

Online insulation tool

Read more information about the insulation standard.

 

What is the required level for insulation?

Insulation requirements are measured by R-value. R-value is a measure of resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.

Minimum R-values vary across New Zealand. Check what zone your property is in using the map below.

Map of New Zealand showing 3 climate zones. Zone 1 covers the top of the North Island up to and including Auckland, Zone 2 covers the rest of the North Island with the exception of the very central area around Taupo/Ruapehu which falls under Zone 3. Zone 3 also includes the whole of the South Island.

Zone 1 - ceiling R 2.9, underfloor R 1.3

Zone 2 - ceiling R 2.9, underfloor R 1.3

Zone 3 - ceiling R 3.3, underfloor R 1.3

Read more information about the insulation standard, including our detailed insulation guidance document.

If the R-values are different throughout the country, why is thickness of insulation the same everywhere?

The 120 mm thickness measurement only applies to existing ceiling insulation. This makes it easier for landlords with existing insulation to check to see if their insulation is in reasonable condition and meets the standard. If a home has less than 120 mm of ceiling insulation, then this must be topped up, or new insulation installed in order to meet the healthy homes minimum R-value requirements, which are consistent with the 2008 building code.

The 120 mm minimum thickness requirement represents the maximum amount insulation is allowed to settle and still be considered in a reasonable condition. If insulation has settled below 120 mm, its performance, or R-value, is significantly reduced. The more insulation settles, the less it insulates.

A landlord must meet the R-value requirement of insulation at the time of installation. This will generally require a thickness significantly more than 120 mm. The label of the insulation should provide an R-value for the insulation product at a given thickness. A landlord has a responsibility to install insulation in the ceiling to an R-value of 2.9/3.3 and underfloor insulation to an R-value of 1.3 in the underfloor space. These requirements must be met at the time of installation and from this point the insulation must remain in reasonable condition. 

The only situation where less than 120 mm is acceptable is when the landlord can prove the insulation was the correct R-value for the zone the property is located in when it was installed, and it’s at least 70% of its original thickness.

Residential Tenancies (Healthy Homes Standards) Regulations 2019 - New Zealand Legislation website(external link).

Read more information about the insulation standard, including our detailed insulation guidance document.

3. Ventilation

What the law says:

Rental homes must have openable windows in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. Kitchens and bathrooms must have extractor fans that ventilate to the outdoors.

Where is the best place to put an extractor fan in a room? Especially where the design of a kitchen or bathroom makes it more difficult to fit one, for example if the cooktop is under a window.

For kitchens, while a rangehood above the cooktop usually captures steam more effectively, an appropriately sized extractor fan installed through an external wall, window or ceiling will still work well and may be the only option in some situations.

For bathrooms, extractor fans should be installed by a professional through an external wall, window or ducted through the ceiling.

Ducted extractor fans (that have the fan unit in the roof space and ducts venting to the outside) are also an option and are typically less noisy than fans mounted directly to a wall or window.  Take reasonable steps to locate the fans as close as practical or possible to the moisture source.

If your property is part of a unit title, you may need to review the body corporate rules before beginning any work as this may affect the potential placement of the extractor fan.

All extractor fans must ventilate to the outdoors to meet the standard.

Read more information about the ventilation standard, including our detailed ventilation guidance document.

Do HRV systems, passive ventilation, showerdomes or rangehoods comply with the extractor fan part of the ventilation standard?

The ventilation standard requires all kitchens and bathrooms to have an extractor fan that removes air to the outdoors.  This means recirculating systems (products like HRV and DVS systems), passive ventilation (windows), or fans that do not extract to the outdoors can still be used, but are not suitable to meet the ventilation standard.

In most cases, a rangehood is the most effective type of extractor fan for kitchens, but it must duct to the outdoors. Some rangehoods recirculate air and/or use carbon filters and in these instances would not meet the standard. Appropriately-sized extractor fans other than rangehoods can still be used in the kitchen.

This is the same for showerdomes. While they are effective at containing moisture, this product does not remove moisture produced from other sources in the bathroom (such as sinks or baths). Showerdomes can still be used, but an appropriately-sized extractor fan that ventilates to the outside is needed to meet the standard.

Whether an extractor fan is appropriately-sized depends on what room the fan is installed in. If an extractor fan is installed in the kitchen, the fan and all ducting must be at least 150 mm in diameter, or the fan with ducting must have an exhaust capacity of 50 ℓ/s. If an extractor fan is installed in the bathroom, the fan and all ducting must be at least 120 mm in diameter, or the fan with ducting must have an exhaust capacity of 25 ℓ/s. 

Read more information about the ventilation standard, including our detailed ventilation guidance document.

Is there a requirement for an extractor fan in the laundry, particularly if there is a dryer?

The ventilation standard does not require an extractor fan for dryers in laundry rooms.  However, if a laundry has a shower or a bath then an extractor fan that vents to the outdoors is required.

Dryers aren’t covered in the standard because it’s not required for landlords to provide them and not all rental homes have them, so it would be difficult to regulate fairly.

If the laundry is an area of concern for some rental properties then installing an extractor fan would be useful to remove moisture, but it isn’t a requirement for the ventilation standard. Alternatively, condenser dryers can help overcome the issue of moisture in the home caused by dryers.

Find out what tenants and landlords can do to prevent mould and dampness.

Read more information about the ventilation standard, including our detailed ventilation guidance document.

4. Moisture ingress and drainage

What the law says:

Rental properties must have efficient drainage for the removal of storm water. For a home where the subfloor space is enclosed and that significantly obstructs airflow, a ground moisture barrier must be installed.

Is a property within the flood plain and/or flood prone areas subject to the moisture ingress and drainage standard?

All properties in a Flood Management Area or noted on Land Information Memorandums to be flood prone are still required to comply with the moisture ingress and drainage standard unless the exemptions apply.

The drainage system must ensure the rental home, including the land it sits on, is not subject to periodic flooding during or after normal rain. Some drainage systems might need to be more comprehensive to handle higher volumes of water, and some properties might not require a moisture ingress barrier if they’re raised higher off the ground and have enough air flow underneath.

The requirement for rental properties to have efficient drainage for the removal of storm water, surface water and ground water has been a requirement for all homes since 1947 as part of the Housing Improvement Regulations. For the vast majority of properties, all that should be required is checking that all drainage systems still function correctly and are in reasonable condition.

A professional will be able to help assess how a flood prone property will need to comply or whether it is exempt from certain parts of the standard. There is information on the last page of our moisture ingress and drainage guidance for this standard about industry professionals.

Healthy homes standards - Moisture ingress and drainage guidance [PDF, 2.4 MB]

An increased probability of flooding would suggest a greater likelihood of moisture present in the ground. So if the area where the house is located is subject to flooding and has potential for a significant amount of water to flow underneath, then it would likely need a ground moisture barrier to minimise the moisture from entering the property.

Other aspects of this standard, like effective drains for the removal of water, will also apply.

Read more information about the standard, including our detailed moisture ingress and drainage guidance document.

Does the moisture barrier need to be on the ground, or can it be tacked to the floor joists (above the ground)?

No, a ground moisture barrier cannot be tacked to the floor joists. It must be installed on the ground. It must either:

  • Meet the specifications outlined in New Zealand Standard 4246:2016 [PDF, 6 MB]. This includes a 10-step guide for the installation of a ground moisture barrier (called ‘on-ground vapour barriers’ in the standard) and safety guidance. If you’re unsure about carrying out the work safely, contact a builder or drain layer that is a licensed building practitioner(external link). Or;
  • Achieve a vapour flow resistance of at least 50 MNs/g and be installed by an appropriate professional installer.

Read more information about the standard, including our detailed moisture ingress and drainage guidance document.

 

We’ve heard that installing a ground moisture barrier may be harmful to pilings, building foundations and/or timber – is this case?

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development worked closely with building and industry experts to develop a standard that addressed high levels of moisture build up in a property. Ground moisture barriers have been found to be the most effective option at addressing subfloor moisture and more effective than subfloor vents.

The Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ) stated that it has seen no evidence that shows moisture accumulation in the soil directly under the barrier penetrates deeply enough to cause the foundations to subside. If the ground is wet enough to affect foundations, it is probable there is a drainage problem that evaporation alone is unlikely to control. BRANZ research shows that subfloor moisture is potentially the largest source of moisture in the home. It can be up to 40 litres each day under a 100 square metre house, even if the soil appears dry.

Read more information about the standard, including our detailed moisture ingress and drainage guidance document.

5. Draught stopping

What the law says:

Make sure the property doesn’t have unreasonable gaps or holes in walls, ceilings, windows, skylights, floors and doors that cause noticeable draughts. Open fireplaces must be closed off unless the tenant requests otherwise.

Are louvre windows acceptable for the draught stopping standard? If a louvre window is in the toilet for example, is it acceptable to isolate a draught by placing a draught stopper on the toilet door?

If the louvre window is in good condition and seals well when closed then it will likely meet the draught stopping standard.

A louvre window will not comply if it creates a noticeable draught. If you hold the back of your hand up to the window when closed and can feel external air coming in, or the louvres don’t fit snugly when closed, then it may be causing a noticeable draught.

A draught stopper does not suffice to counteract an unreasonable gap that causes a noticeable draught. If a louvre window has a noticeable draught, further review will be required to understand how to address the draught i.e. replacing the window.

Read the draught stopping guidance for tips on how to determine if a gap is unreasonable and common causes of gaps.

Healthy homes standards - draught stopping guidance [PDF, 790 KB]

How do I fill unreasonable gaps?

Before determining how to fill any unreasonable gaps or holes, you should consider the type of gap, location and which draught stopping solution is suitable. For example, an unreasonable gap in the skirting board could be filled with a flexible silicon-based or latex sealant.  However, bigger gaps around plumbing or electrical passages could be filled with polyurethane foam. EECA’s comprehensive advice on draught stopping solutions(external link) provides further information on how to fill a variety of gaps in a property.

Some openings in a home are intentional, so take care when addressing draughts so that you do not accidentally block intentional openings. Any seals, sealant or blockages must be maintained to ensure they prevent any draughts coming in or out of the property. If they fail or break they should be replaced as early as possible.

If you are unsure about any work that needs to be done, or how to do the work safely, it is strongly recommended you contact a suitably experienced or qualified professional.

Healthy homes standards -  draught stopping guidance [PDF, 790 KB]

If mould starts to grow as a result of gaps being filled, who’s responsible?

Both tenant and landlord can help to raise the standard of a property. While it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the property complies with the standards, there are actions a tenant needs to take in order to get the most benefit out of the standards and ensure a warm, dry home.

Landlords should take care when addressing draughts so that you do not accidentally block intentional openings, especially ventilation openings such as weep holes.

During a tenancy, tenants should keep the house well-aired and use the provided extractor fans.  It is the tenant’s responsibility to keep the house in a condition that doesn’t encourage issues such as dampness or mould.

As an example, if a landlord notices mould during a routine inspection, they can ask the tenant to clean it and give the correct notice for a re-inspection to ensure the tenant has addressed this issue. This is an opportunity for the landlord to speak to the tenant and ensure they are airing the house regularly and using the extractor fans. There are steps a landlord can take if the tenant does not change their behaviour as a result of this conversation – see Disputes.

If a tenant is doing all the right things, and the house is still damp and mouldy, a landlord should consider getting a qualified building surveyor to check the property. They can assess if there is a hidden issue causing the dampness.

Tenancy Services has an education campaign called Raise the Standard, which provides helpful tips for both landlords and tenants on working together to comply with the standards.

Raise the standard website(external link)

Healthy homes standard - draught stopping guidance [PDF, 790 KB]

6. General exemptions

There are also some general exemptions that exempt a rental property from complying with the healthy homes standards. There are also specific exemptions which apply to some standards.

The requirements that apply to each exemption and additional information can be found in the guidance.

See: Exemptions to the healthy homes standards

What is the definition for substantial building work and does this consider how much the work may cost?

There are no definitive specifications for substantial work or substantial damage, as it would be different for each property and cost is just one component to consider. It would also differ for each of the standards.

Substantial building work should be considered when testing whether it is reasonably practicable to install something in order to meet the healthy homes standards. In order to qualify for this exemption, an industry professional* is required to assess your situation and determine if the work required in order to access the space would be considered substantial, and therefore exempt. Note that this assessment should be in writing and would need to detail how the industry professional* has reached this conclusion.

Substantial building work would take into account the nature of the work required, but is not limited to cost implications or the type of equipment used for construction. This would all be a part of the assessment an industry professional* might make when determining if work is considered substantial. If there is a disagreement about whether the work required is actually substantial then this is a matter that the Tribunal has jurisdiction to assess and make a decision on.

When is a professional* certificate required versus a landlord checking themselves? If a professional* certificate is required, what level of detail should be included?

There is no legal requirement for a professional* to sign off healthy homes standards work as compliant. However, if a property is exempt from complying with a standard, a professional can assess and provide a written assessment of that exemption, particularly where the exemption being relied on depends on whether a professional installer can install the thing.

Depending on the work required at a particular rental property, landlords may be able to do the work themselves. For example, if it is safe to do so, a landlord may choose to install a ground moisture barrier in order to meet the moisture ingress standard. However, some work will require qualified professionals*– for example, installing a heat pump, any gasfitting, drainlaying, plumbing, electrical work or restricted building work will require an appropriately qualified and licensed professional*.

In all cases, a landlord will be required to keep a record of documents that show how they comply with the healthy homes standards from 1 July 2019.

Examples of records to show compliance could include:

  • code compliance certificate
  • records of calculations of a living room’s required heating capacity, including a printout from the Tenancy Services heating assessment tool
  • certificate of conformance
  • receipts and invoices from builders or tradespeople
  • receipts for any building materials and/or elements
  • photographic evidence of compliance
  • records of work from building practitioners or Independently Qualified Persons
  • a professional* evaluation performed by a Licenced Building Practitioner, Independent Qualified Person or any other relevant professional*
  • a Building Warrant of Fitness or Compliance Schedule, where the extractor fans are part of a larger ventilation system and the ventilation system is a specified system
  • Land Information Memorandum (LIM) or Building information reports or part of these reports that reasonably shows compliance
  • product manuals/schedules for devices installed for the purpose of compliance with the standards
  • any other documents/records that will reasonably show compliance.

*Professional – what does this mean?

A professional installer is considered to be a professional tradesperson who is also experienced at carrying out the installation work. In addition they must also be appropriately qualified and/or hold registration to perform the installation work (if required). An example of this would be a licensed building practitioner, licensed electrical worker or licensed gas worker for restricted building, plumbing, drainage, gasfitting or electrical work. It could also be an experienced and trained insulation installer. For someone to be a ‘professional installer’ for the purposes of any exemptions they need to be experienced in performing the installation work in question.

7. Other HHS

These questions do not relate to a specific standard but are general to the healthy homes standards.

Why are the healthy homes standards higher than Building Code regulations?

There are two standards that may be considered greater than the Building Code:

Standard Building Code Healthy homes standards requirements
Heating G5 does not prescribe a required internal temperature for residential homes. Healthy Homes heating standard will require the installation of a heating device that has the capacity to heat the living room it is installed in to 18˚ C.
Moisture Ingress E2.3.4 requires building elements be protected from the adverse effects of moisture entering the space below suspended floors. Healthy Homes moisture ingress and drainage standard requires a ground moisture barrier be installed in any enclosed subfloor cavity in accordance with NZS 4246 section 8.

The purpose of the Building Code is to provide regulation with which New Zealand buildings must comply to guarantee a certain level of structural quality for health and safety purposes. These apply to all New Zealand buildings, not just buildings occupied for residential purposes.

The purpose of the healthy homes standards is to provide minimum requirements that have the highest impact on making a residential property warm and dry for a tenant to live in. Parts of the regulations are higher than the Building Code because they are amending existing buildings to make them healthier to live in. The interventions were carefully chosen to place a reasonable requirement and to not require significant incidental building work that does not clearly contribute to improvements in the how warm and dry the home is. Many of our existing buildings do not have components required by the Building Code – such as wall insulation – so in general the Building Code requires a much higher standard before a building can get consent.

Tenants in rental properties have less choice than owner-occupiers in making these changes to their home, therefore the standards set minimum requirements for landlords as business operators. The tenant, as a customer, should not be endangered by what they buy. Tenants should be able to operate in the market with confidence in the service they pay for.

It is recommended that building work required for any of the above standards should be done by a licensed and qualified professional:

For more information on where to get support from industry professionals, see the last page of the guidance documents for each standard: Healthy homes.

What if tenants do not use the extractor fans or heaters provided, and do not open windows?

Both tenants and landlords have a role to play to ensure a home is warm and dry. Part of our Raise the Standard education campaign(external link) ‘talks to’ tenants about the actions they should be taking to keep a home healthy. Although these actions aren’t required under the healthy homes standards, they are required as part of a tenant’s general responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. Responsibilities include keeping a property reasonably clean and tidy and extend to not contributing to mould and dampness.

If you are concerned that a tenant isn’t using the fans and heater provided, and that those actions are causing mould and dampness, talk to your tenant about it first – good relationships are an important part of a successful tenancy. Explain why it’s important to use the fans and heater provided.  If the problem continues then you can issue a 14-day notice to remedy, which provides a timeframe within which the tenant must correct the issue before further action can be taken.

See: Self-resolution

How will you make sure landlords are meeting the standards?

There are two main ways Tenancy Services will be working to ensure rental properties are meeting the healthy homes standards.

Initially, the Information and Education team will carry out a multi-year comprehensive information and education campaign, using the most appropriate channels to have the widest reach, raising awareness of the standards and how to comply.

This will be followed by the Tenancy Compliance & Investigations team conducting compliance and investigation activity that holds non-complaint landlords to account. We appreciate that most landlords want to do the right thing and provide warm, dry housing.

Do farm houses leased as part of the farm come under these regulations? What about retirement villages?

Yes, farm houses do. This type of tenancy may be a service tenancy. A service tenancy is where an employer provides accommodation for a worker to live during their employment. All service tenancies are required to have a tenancy agreement and are fully covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, even if the tenant doesn’t pay rent.

See: Service tenancy

For more information, read the article on Business.govt.nz: Accommodation for workers: what you need to know(external link).

Properties typically provided by retirement villages are excluded from the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 and the healthy homes standards when the property is occupied under an occupational right agreement. 

8. Tenant liability

What the law says:

If tenants (or their guests) damage a rental property as a result of careless behaviour, the tenant will be liable for the cost of the damage up to a maximum of four weeks’ rent or the landlord’s insurance excess (if they have insurance), whichever is lower.

What’s the difference between careless and intentional damage? What about accidental damage?

Where there is a dispute over damage, it is for the Tenancy Tribunal to determine whether damage is careless or intentional for the purposes of the Residential Tenancies Act.

The Tenancy Tribunal has experience in deciding whether damage is careless or intentional. Careless damage is generally viewed as being damage caused by negligence, lack of care, or lack of forethought. The question has often been expressed by the Tenancy Tribunal as “was the tenant exercising a degree of care and attention that a reasonable and prudent tenant would exercise in the circumstances?”.

Intentional damage is damage caused by actions which are deliberate and not careless. The Tribunal has previously found damage to be intentional if the tenant meant to cause it or knew that it was certain to result from his or her actions.

Accidental damage has often been used interchangeably with careless damage in Tenancy Tribunal cases. Accidental damage is not referenced in the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 because the Tribunal need only determine between careless and intentional damage, and whether the act or omission that caused damage constitutes an imprisonable offence. Depending on the above criteria, the Tribunal will assess the information that it is provided about the “accidental damage” when determining whether it should be careless or intentional for the purposes of the Act.

The Tenancy Tribunal looks to established case law when determining whether tenant damage was intentional.

Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 brochure [PDF, 527 KB]

For a summary of tenancy legislation see: Laws and bylaws

In regards to damage, how does the Tribunal determine if it’s one event or multiple events of damage, and how much the tenant needs to pay?

The Amendments do not focus on an ‘event’ and are instead focussed on ‘the damage’ or ‘the destruction’.   

The Tribunal will make determinations based on the facts of each case, which will help clarify the Tribunal’s approach to damage that doesn’t result from a single action or event.

Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 brochure [PDF, 527 KB].

For a summary of tenancy legislation see: Laws and bylaws

What is the purpose of the insurance statement? And why doesn’t the tenant have to provide their insurance information?

As tenants will now be liable for the cost of damage up to the amounts stated above, they need to be aware of what they are potentially liable for if they cause careless damage to the rental property. For this reason, landlords will need to provide insurance information in any new tenancy agreement, including whether the property is insured and if so, what the relevant excess amounts are. The statement in the tenancy agreement must also inform the tenant that a copy of the landlord’s insurance policy (relevant to the tenant’s liability for damage) is available on request. The full statement will provide important information to tenants, such as when their actions might result in a policy becoming invalid. Only the full insurance policy provides that level of detail.

Insurance statement template [PDF, 811 KB]

Residential Tenancy Agreement template [PDF, 1.2 MB]

If landlords don’t provide this information, or if they don’t tell tenants in writing within a reasonable time if this information changes, they may be liable for a financial penalty of up to $500, to be decided by the Tribunal.

Tenants on existing tenancies will be able to ask their landlords for this insurance information, and this must also be provided within a reasonable time.

Insurance companies will not be able to pursue tenants on the landlord’s behalf for the cost of damage unless the damage was intentional or was the result of an act or omission that constitutes an imprisonable offence.

Tenants are not required to provide their own personal insurance information to landlords under the Residential Tenancies Act, as it is not relevant to a tenant’s liability to the landlord. Whether the tenant does or does not have their own insurance does not alter the tenant’s liability for careless damage. The intention of the amendments is to ensure tenants are aware of their liability for any careless damage that occurs during a tenancy.

Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 brochure [PDF, 527 KB]

For a summary of tenancy legislation see: Laws and bylaws

Can the tenant and landlord come to an agreement about who needs to cover what in a case of careless damage?

Tenants must inform the landlord straight away if any damage has been caused to the rental property. We recommend that the tenant and landlord discuss the situation and try and come to an agreement about how the damage should be covered. Note though, the landlord cannot request, demand or accept a payment (whether monies, repair work, or similar) from the tenant that is more than the amount (in value) the tenant is legally liable for under these Amendments.

If an agreement cannot be reached, then either party can make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal. Tenancy Services will then arrange for the case to be discussed at either mediation or before an adjudicator at the Tenancy Tribunal.

In any event, when a case gets taken to the Tribunal over damage it is first for the landlord to prove that the damage occurred during the tenancy and is not due to fair wear and tear. Once that is established, the tenant must prove that the damage was careless (rather than intentional), or that it was neither careless nor intentional. If the tenant is liable for the damage then the limits on liability will only apply if the tenant can satisfy the Tribunal the damage was caused carelessly.

Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 brochure [PDF, 527 KB]

For a summary of tenancy legislation see: Laws and bylaws

9. Unlawful premises

What the law says:

Rental properties must legally be allowed to be lived in at the start of the tenancy. Under the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords must ‘comply with all requirements in respect of buildings, health, and safety under any enactment so far as they apply to the premises’.

Will a landlord be in breach of the unlawful premises legislation if a tenant moves into a room within our garage that is not consented and not agreed to as part of a tenancy?

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 gives the Tenancy Tribunal full jurisdiction over cases where properties are unlawful for residential purposes.

Properties are unlawful for residential use if:

  • the premises can't legally be occupied, and
  • this is because of, or contributed to by, the landlord’s failure to comply with all legal requirements for occupation by the tenant and requirements relating to building, health and safety that apply to the premises.

The Tenancy Tribunal has come across a range of properties which are unlawful for residential use, because:

  • they didn't have the required consents under the Building Act 2004 or the Resource Management Act 1991
  • there was unconsented building work, or
  • they were deemed unsafe and unsanitary by the relevant local authority.

Examples which have been considered by the Tenancy Tribunal include:

  • a sleepout converted into a separate independent dwelling
  • premises on a mezzanine floor in commercial premises
  • premises originally built for commercial or industrial purposes
  • a converted garage semi-attached to a house
  • a flat beneath a house converted into a 'granny flat'
  • a shipping container converted into residential premises
  • a small cabin next to the landlord's house.

The difference between unlawful premises in relation to Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 and the example in the question is the landlord’s behaviour. If a landlord intentionally rents an unconsented property like a converted garage for residential purposes, then that would be an unlawful residential premises. This is different from tenants choosing to use the property in a way that was not intended as this is not the landlord’s failure, but rather the tenant’s behaviour. 

If a landlord is concerned about tenants potentially living in a part of the property that is not appropriate for occupation, the tenancy agreement could make it clear what the legal limits are on the use of the property. The landlord can raise any concerns with the tenant about their use and if they cannot agree on how to resolve the problem they can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved.

Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 brochure [PDF, 527 KB]

For a summary of tenancy legislation see: Laws and bylaws

10. Contamination

What the law says:

Landlords can now test their rental premises for methamphetamine (meth) while tenants are living there. They must provide 48 hours’ notice to tenants before entering the property. For boarding house tenants they must provide 24 hours’ notice before entering a boarding house room.

Is providing a property contaminated with meth, even unknowingly, a breach of a landlord’s obligations to provide a reasonably clean property under section 45?

The law currently requires landlords to ensure that properties are provided in a reasonable state of cleanliness and a reasonable state of repair. If a landlord rents out a contaminated property, they may be breaching their obligations under the Act.

Liability will very much depend on the circumstances of the case.

The amended Act allows for regulations to be made setting a methamphetamine contamination level beyond which a property is deemed uninhabitable, and (once regulations are made) will make it unlawful for landlords to let a property which they know to be contaminated above the prescribed level. 

Since 27 August 2019, landlords have been required to share the results with the tenant of any meth testing that has been carried out. So far, not all the provisions of the Amendments relating to contamination are in force. However, once regulations are made, the Act will protect landlords from liability in relation to ‘cleanliness’ requirements if they unknowingly rent out a contaminated premises, but have complied with the regulations – for example, requirements relating to when they need to carry out a test before renting.

Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 brochure [PDF, 527 KB]

For a summary of tenancy legislation see: Laws and bylaws

What is the process for proving a tenant has contaminated a property with meth and how can it be handled?

In order to satisfy the Tribunal that the contamination occurred during a particular tenancy, the landlord may need to prove this. A landlord can help their case through providing the Tribunal with results from testing at two different times. Firstly, the landlord would need to show that baseline tests were carried out before the tenancy commenced and the results in those areas throughout the premises showed no sign of meth contamination. This would then need to be followed by subsequent testing either during or immediately after the tenancy ended and before anyone else moved in. If the results showed the premises had become contaminated during the tenancy, then the landlord should consider an application to the Tenancy Tribunal to help get the issue sorted.

Before deciding whether to take a meth-related claim to the Tenancy Tribunal, landlords should consider all available information. This includes:

  • the New Zealand Standard
  • the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor report
  • Tribunal decisions. Recent decisions allow a landlord to refer to the guidance available at the time a property was tested and decontaminated.

Also consider:

  • when the testing and decontamination took place
  • what evidence there is of methamphetamine manufacture or use in the premises.

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 will provide for a specific process for terminating a tenancy when a property is contaminated. The testing to determine if a property is contaminated will need to be done in accordance with a testing method set out in regulations that are currently being developed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development(external link). This provision comes into force on 31 December 2020.

Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 brochure [PDF, 527 KB]

For a summary of tenancy legislation see: Laws and bylaws

Why is it called contaminants and not simply methamphetamine?

When the Bill was first introduced to Parliament, the word “methamphetamine” was referenced and used. It was renamed to “contaminants” in the Amendments to make sure it addresses all possible forms of contaminants that may be prescribed in regulations.

It also future proofs the legislation against any future contaminant not yet known about that may affect the rental market. Twenty years ago methamphetamine was not the same issue it is now, so this gives the legislation room for any future issues without needing to change the reference.

Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 brochure [PDF, 527 KB]

For a summary of tenancy legislation see: Laws and bylaws

11. Demonstrating compliance and using professional installers* to support compliance

Can I do the work myself and still comply with the healthy homes standards?

Landlords are able to carry out most healthy homes work themselves if other enactments do not require the use of a professional. For example, things like blocking unreasonable draughts, checking and clearing (or repairing) the drains and guttering and even installing insulation. Remember, safety first! Make sure areas are safe and take appropriate safety precautions.

There may be instances where a Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP), Licensed Electrical Worker (LEW) or Licensed Gas Worker (LGW) will be required – for example, installing an extractor fan. Information on each of these industry professionals and how to find one is covered on the last page of each of the healthy homes standards guidance documents.

What are the compliance timeframes for the healthy homes standards and the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019?

It is important that both landlords and tenants understand the dates for complying with the new tenancy regulations.

1 July 2019

All new, varied and renewed tenancy agreements must include a signed statement of intent to comply with the health homes standards.

27 August 2019

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 came into force.

Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 brochure [PDF, 527 KB]

1 December 2020

All new, varied and renewed tenancy agreements need to include specific information about the property’s current level of compliance.

1 July 2021

Private rental properties must comply with the standards within 90 days of a new or renewed tenancy.  All boarding houses must comply.

1 July 2023

All houses rented out by Kāinga Ora (formerly Housing New Zealand) and community housing providers must comply with the standards.

1 July 2024

All rental homes must comply with the healthy homes standards.


For more information see: Healthy homes compliance timeframes

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 came into force on 27 August 2019.

Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 brochure [PDF, 527 KB]

Record keeping – how do I show records for existing installations like an extractor fan?

From 1 July 2019, landlords must keep records of all documents that show how they comply with the healthy homes standards.

There is a list of relevant documents that can be used as part of your record keeping on page 17 of the healthy homes standards guide, which is also available on the website.

Healthy homes standards guide [PDF, 1.2 MB]

Receipts and accurate records

In the example of an existing extractor fan, records could be product manuals (see if you can look up the model of your extractor fan online), photographic evidence and receipts or invoices from builders or professional installers. Any records or documents that will reasonably show compliance are acceptable.

Can you give us a list of professionals* we can contact to help carry out work to meet the standards?

You can hire a professional* to provide advice or an assessment of your rental property to ensure it meets the healthy homes standards. Getting this advice is voluntary except where proving an exemption, but is an effective way to make sure your rental property is compliant.

For each standard, the relevant industry professionals* are listed on the last page of each of the technical guidance documents:

*Professional installer – what does this mean?

A professional installer is considered to be a professional tradesperson who is also experienced at carrying out the installation work. In addition they must also be appropriately qualified and/or hold registration to perform the installation work (if required). An example of this would be a licensed building practitioner, licensed electrical worker or licensed gas worker for restricted building, plumbing, drainage, gasfitting or electrical work. It could also be an experienced and trained insulation installer. For someone to be a ‘professional installer’ for the purposes of any exemptions they need to be experienced in performing the installation work in question.

Define TCIT and how they can act on behalf of the tenant when taking a landlord to the Tribunal.

The Tenancy Services Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team (TCIT) monitors and enforces compliance with the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act), and will soon enforce compliance with the healthy homes standards 2019.

Where ongoing breaches are identified, the team uses a number of interventions and enforcement activities to make sure landlords comply with their obligations under rental law.

As well as investigating alleged breaches, landlords and property management companies are proactively visited, and their business processes and systems are audited for proof of compliance.

The team has a range of compliance tools to ensure landlords are meeting their obligations. These include formal warnings and compliance agreements. In the most serious cases, the team may decide to take proceedings against a landlord in the Tenancy Tribunal on behalf of a tenant.

12. General tenancy

How should landlords work with asbestos constructed properties when they are looking to comply with the healthy homes standards, or any other maintenance work?

Landlords should continue to comply with Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 when dealing with asbestos on a property, regardless if the work required is to meet the healthy homes standards or not.

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015(external link) 

Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016(external link)

Residential landlords are PCBUs (persons conducting a business or undertaking) under the Health and Safety at Work Act. They must manage any asbestos-related risks when work is taking place at their property. This is to ensure the health and safety of tenants, neighbours, contractors and anyone else who may be affected.

As a landlord, you may not have to remove asbestos from your property but you will need to manage any related risks. For example, if an industry professional is installing an extractor fan, this could disturb material in the property that contains asbestos that needs managing.

When work at a property includes a risk of exposure to respirable asbestos, the relevant asbestos must be identified and an asbestos management plan prepared. A landlord may write the asbestos management plan themselves, or they may employ someone else to do it.  If the asbestos is non-friable (firmly bound – unlikely to release asbestos fibre) and in good condition it’s often safer to leave it undisturbed, particularly for minor work. We recommend speaking to an industry professional to make this determination.

There are further responsibilities a landlord will need to be aware of if dealing with asbestos on a property, see: Managing asbestos in rental properties.