Just when Kiwi (New Zealand) landlords were coming to terms with tougher measures, the government has announced even stricter regulations. After passing the Healthy Homes Guarantee, ministers have enforced a series of stipulations, which are likely to make landlording more challenging than ever before.
The Healthy Homes Guarantee Act
What does it mean for landlords and tenants?
Private landlords in New Zealand have been given a deadline to ensure their properties meet the standards set out by the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act. This set of guidelines relates to minimum standards for heating, insulation, moisture control, ventilation, and drainage.
Landlords have until July 2021 to make sure their properties are compliant. NZHousing
What rental properties must have
The Healthy Homes Guarantee Act states that rental homes must have:
- Heating systems that can warm the main living areas to a minimum of 18°
- Floor and ceiling insulation that meets the 2008 Building and Code
- Kitchens and bathrooms with extractor fans
- A ground moisture barrier to prevent damp
- Suitable drainage and guttering
- Anti-draft measures
On the surface, the measures appear to hit landlords and benefit tenants, but the added costs of running rental properties will be passed on to tenants.
Moderate weekly increases are already in force, but landlords are facing additional costs, which could spiral into the thousands over the course of the next few years. When prices go up, this usually means one thing: tenants pay more.
While many landlords were considering weekly increases as a viable option for covering elevated fees, a new rule change is set to throw a spanner in the works. It has been announced that rent changes will only be permitted once a year. So, where does this leave Kiwi landlords, and are they facing a raw deal in comparison to property owners in other countries?
How does New Zealand stack up?
New Zealand is not the only country making changes to try and improve living standards and rental conditions. In the UK, the US, and Australia, there have been policy changes, which are designed to enforce a minimum standard.
Renting is becoming increasingly popular, and in many cases, people are signing long-term contracts, or even opting to rent for life.
Australia – Rental Properties Measures
To cater for the evolving market and emerging trends, Australian policymakers have introduced a raft of measures that will undoubtedly enhance life as a tenant. Landlords in Victoria, for example, will only be able to refuse pets through a tribunal, and tenants will have the right to make cosmetic changes, for example, hanging shelves, without written consent.
Fee changes, if applicable, will also be approved once a year, rather than every six months. Private rental properties will also be required to satisfy standards related to security, privacy, insulation, and energy efficiency. Any tenant that moves into a home that doesn’t comply has the right to order urgent repairs or modifications.
United Kingdom – New Rental Homes Regulations
In the UK, new regulations could pave the way for minimum terms of 3 years and the abolition of tenancy fees. Landlords will also be required to ensure their properties meet eco-friendly criteria that are designed to boost energy efficiency and save tenants money.
The majority of measures across the board are focused on heating and insulation. There’s no doubt that tenants in all countries will benefit from improved systems and advanced technology, but there is always a cost to bear when policies change.
By increasing running costs for landlords, there’s a risk that tenants will end up paying more, making renting less accessible and affordable. There’s also a powerful possibility of landlords selling up. While this may provide opportunities for first-time buyers, it could also contribute to a lack of affordable housing for those who are not in a position to buy.
Further misery for Kiwi landlords?
Many private property owners in New Zealand are people who have invested in bricks and mortar as a means of boosting their income on a long-term basis. Most have a small number of properties, rather than an extensive portfolio, and the consensus is that they won’t be able to continue to profit from renting out their properties as a result of the new healthy homes measures.
When life already seemed to be getting tougher by the day for those landlords, another potential hurdle was revealed. A decision on capital gains tax is imminent. At best, this will represent an extension of current ring-fencing rules, but there’s a risk the announcement will create many wider-ranging problems for landlords.
Being a landlord is undoubtedly tougher and more expensive than ever before. Recent changes in New Zealand reflect trends in other countries, but this won’t provide a huge amount of comfort for Kiwi landlords facing higher costs and an ever-growing list of demands and requirements.
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