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Is your property compliant with the Healthy Homes Standards?

By Kate Major

The Healthy Homes Standards (HHS) became law on 1 July 2019 and comprise of a set of standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage, and draught stopping in rental properties. The Government recently announced a deadline extension to the HHS. What does this mean for property owners that are yet to bring their rentals up to compliancy standards? Before we cover that issue let’s briefly touch on these standards to get a better understanding of the requirements.

Heating standard
There must be 1 or more fixed heaters that can directly heat the main living room. The heater(s) must be fixed (not portable) and must be at least 1.5 kW in heating capacity. The heater(s) must meet the minimum heating capacity needed for the main living room. You can determine the required heating capacity by completing the online assessment tool. Acceptable heaters include the following:

  • Heat pump (with thermostat)
  • Electric heater (with thermostat)
  • Wood burners
  • Pellet burner
  • Flued gas heaters

You don’t need to add more heating if your heater(s) meet the following conditions.

  • was installed before 1 July 2019
  • each have a heating capacity more than 2.4kW
  • meet the requirements in the standard (not an open fire or an unflued combustion heater for example)
  • are not electric heaters (heat pumps are acceptable) if the required heating capacity for the main living room is over 2.4 kW, and
  • have a total heating capacity of at least 80% of what you need to meet the required heating capacity.

More information about the requirements under this standard can be found on the Tenancy Services website.

Insulation standard
Ceiling and underfloor insulation has been compulsory in all rental homes since 1 July 2019. Insulation requirements are measured in R-value. The R-value requirements vary depending on the climate zone that the rental property is located in.

Ventilation standard
Living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms must have openable windows. Kitchens and bathrooms must have extractor fans or an acceptable continuous mechanical ventilation system. For more information head to the ventilation section on the Tenancy Services website.

Moisture ingress and drainage standard
Rental properties must have efficient drainage for the removal of storm water, surface water and ground water, including an appropriate outfall. For more information on these requirements head to this section on the Tenancy Services website.

Draught stopping standard
Landlords must make sure the property doesn’t have unreasonable gaps or holes in walls, ceilings, windows, skylights, floors, and doors which cause noticeable draughts. All unused open fireplaces must be closed off or their chimneys must be blocked to prevent draughts. For more information head here.

All new or renewed tenancy agreements must include information about the property’s current level of compliance with the HHS. Breaching any of the HHS or insulation obligations is an unlawful act for which exemplary damages may be awarded up to a maximum of $7,200.

Tenancy Tribunal orders
There have been recent exemplary damages awarded to tenants for breaches of Healthy Homes Standard. Click on the links below for more information on those cases.

Application Number: 4345406
Application Number: 4341073
Application Number: 4368001

There are specific exemptions to these standards. Generally, exemptions apply when it is not reasonably practicable to complete the work required. More information on exemptions for each standard can be found in the respective pages mentioned above.

Changes to the deadlines
On 26 November 2022 the government made changes to the deadlines for compliance with these standards. Private landlords now have until 1 July 2025 to comply with the standards. Compliance for a new or renewed tenancy has also extended from 90 days to 120 days.

Ultimately, the objective of these standards is to raise the living conditions for tenants. A property that has achieved full compliance under the HHS is certified to lease to tenants and is more appealing to quality tenants. A compliant home that is healthier, comfortable, and easier to heat can lead to longer tenancy durations. As we approach a more competitive market, having high standards in these areas can be the difference that results in immediate occupancy instead of a term of vacancy. Those holding off the investments in their properties may find themselves struggling to achieve compliancy by the deadline due to the lack of availability of tradespeople and they may find the expense has increased due to inflationary pressures affecting the cost of building materials.

Photo by Devon Janse van Rensburg on Unsplash

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