New Zealand Law Society - Healthy homes bill gets through Parliament

Healthy homes bill gets through Parliament

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The Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2) has passed its third reading in parliament.

The bill amends the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 to provide that the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) sets minimum standards, binding on landlords, for the heating and insulation of every rental home.

The bill has a similar purpose to the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill 2013 which was debated on 18 March 2013 but did not proceed.

The bill provides that every tenancy agreement under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 must include a statement that the premises meet, at a minimum, the standards set under Section 132A. This applies to all agreements entered into seven days after the standards are promulgated and all agreements that are in existence five years’ after the standards are promulgated. “Failure by the landlord to comply [with the minimum standards] or to breach the guarantee in it is declared to be an unlawful act.”

“Until now, rental properties have been treated differently from other products. A butcher isn’t allowed to sell meat that will make their customers sick, but a landlord has allowed to rent out a house that is too cold, or damp and damages the health of its occupants,” says Minister of Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford.

"Most landlords do a good job, but the fact is the lack of legal standards means some rentals are not currently fit to live in. Forty-thousand children a year are admitted to hospital due to diseases are related to poor housing, and 1600 New Zealanders’ lives are cut short by illnesses caused by living in cold, damp conditions. This has to change. Thanks to this law, it will.”

Landlord’s responsibilities

Section 45(1) of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 sets out the landlord’s responsibilities which are to:

  • Provide the premises in a reasonable state of cleanliness,
  • Provide and maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair having regard to the age and character of the premises and the period during which the premises are likely to remain habitable and available for residential purposes,
  • Comply with all requirements in respect of buildings, health, and safety under any enactment so far as they apply to the premises,
  • If the premises do not have a reticulated water supply, provide adequate means for the collection and storage of water,
  • Compensate the tenant for any reasonable expenses incurred by the tenant in repairing the premises where the state of disrepair has arisen otherwise than as a result of a breach of the tenancy agreement by the tenant and is likely to cause injury to persons or property or is otherwise serious and urgent and the tenant has given the landlord notice of the state of disrepair or made a reasonable attempt to do so,
  • Take all reasonable steps to ensure that none of the landlord's other tenants causes or permits any interference with the reasonable peace, comfort, or privacy of the tenant in the use of the premises.

The bill inserts a new responsibility which is that the landlord must “comply with the standards of heating and insulation under Section 132A.” Failure to observe this is declared an “unlawful act.”

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