Health­ier homes

Metro Magazine NZ - - Advertisin­g Feature -

With more of us rent­ing than ever be­fore, the gov­ern­ment has brought in new reg­u­la­tions to raise the stan­dard of our rental hous­ing. By work­ing to­gether, land­lords and ten­ants can do a lot to meet the new rules – and cre­ate health­ier, hap­pier homes in the process.

Where we were once a na­tion built on the dream of own­ing a home, more and more of us – now over 600,000 house­holds – are rent­ing, either by choice or ne­ces­sity. For those lucky enough to se­cure a well-loved, well-main­tained prop­erty, it can be the start of a great long-term re­la­tion­ship with their land­lords. But for many other ten­ants, rental life feels like it comes with a lot of com­pro­mises.

The re­search backs this up. On av­er­age, the stan­dard of hous­ing for renters is lower than for owner-oc­cu­piers. New Zealand homes of­ten have is­sues with cold and damp, and this can have a whole range of neg­a­tive ef­fects in­clud­ing poor health out­comes, and long-term dam­age to prop­er­ties from mois­ture and mould.

The Gov­ern­ment has brought in a range of mea­sures to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion. While most of the head­lines so far have been ded­i­cated to new rules about in­su­la­tion that’s just one of five ar­eas with new re­quire­ments, which some land­lords will need to start com­ply­ing with from 2021. The oth­ers are heat­ing, ven­ti­la­tion, mois­ture ingress and drainage, and draught stop­ping.

All of them are de­signed to make rental hous­ing warmer, drier, health­ier and more com­fort­able. They’re also ways to help ten­ants feel like the prop­erty they rent is a real home – a place that’s cared for and main­tained, both by them­selves and their land­lords.

Metro spoke to sev­eral ten­ants and land­lords about the new rules, their ex­pec­ta­tions, and their ex­pe­ri­ences of the Auck­land rental mar­ket.

RUDI, LAND­LORD Birken­head, Auck­land

Now re­tired, Rudi worked for 40 years as a tiler and stone­ma­son. He owns four rental prop­er­ties – mostly com­mer­cial, but one also in­cludes a res­i­den­tial flat. That prop­erty comes with some chal­lenges when it comes to main­te­nance and im­prove­ments, be­cause the his­toric build­ing has re­stric­tions on it.

This meant that when the new rules came into ef­fect, Rudi did ev­ery­thing he could to meet the new re­quire­ments – in­clud­ing putting in un­der­floor in­su­la­tion. “I found a pro­mo­tion where if you spent $600, you got a $50 re­bate,” he says. “That sounded good to me!”

Rudi com­pletely sup­ports the new rules. “A warm in­su­lated home is es­sen­tial,” he says, “and it should have been a le­gal re­quire­ment 30 or 40 years ago. Happy, well ten­ants are good ten­ants.” Be­cause of his back­ground

as a tradie, he does much of the main­te­nance and im­prove­ment work him­self.

“I’ve al­ways had a great re­la­tion­ship with my ten­ants,” he says. “I’m more their friend than their land­lord. How­ever you shouldn’t get too close, as pre­vi­ously I’ve had ten­ants take ad­van­tage of my gen­eros­ity. My daugh­ter Krista takes care of the ac­counts and makes sure they pay their rent on time.”

“It’s all about com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” Krista says, “both ways. I also put ev­ery­thing in writ­ing, and I’m up­front and ex­pect the same in re­turn.” Rudi agrees. “You have to com­pro­mise and ne­go­ti­ate when some­thing needs to be done,” he says. And that in­cludes be­ing prag­matic about meet­ing new rules when they come in.

“If it’s a le­gal re­quire­ment, it’s a le­gal re­quire­ment,” he says. “And it must be ad­hered to. No buts.”

OLIVIA, TENANT Half Moon Bay, Auck­land

Not all ten­ants are so lucky. Olivia has lived in her Half Moon Bay home for three years, and it’s been a con­stant bat­tle to get the prop­erty man­ager and her land­lord to ac­knowl­edge the prob­lems with cold, mois­ture and mould. Olivia says on the whole, it’s quite a nice, low-main­te­nance house, with a rel­a­tively new kitchen and main­tained gar­dens. But the heat­ing and in­su­la­tion is an­other story al­to­gether.

“We’ve got zero heat­ing in the house,” she says. “So we have to pro­vide our own. We can’t re­ally af­ford it. We bought a cheap heater that said it would be eco­nom­i­cal to run, but it’s re­ally not.

Our power bill was ridicu­lous. It wasn’t do­ing much, and it was cost­ing an arm and a leg. It just wasn’t worth it.”

She also says that, un­til very re­cently, there were no se­cure latches at the prop­erty which made it harder to ven­ti­late it safely. These fac­tors can lead to mould – which they’ve found in their bed­rooms, on win­dow seals (which she says are also fail­ing, so there are draughts too), on cur­tains, and in the bath­room. The prop­erty man­ager told Olivia there was noth­ing they could do to fix the mould is­sue, and that the flat­mates would sim­ply have to scrub it away with bleach on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. The land­lord did drop off a de­hu­mid­i­fier – which, like the heater,

The new rules make rental hous­ing warmer and drier, and help ten­ants feel like the prop­erty they rent is a home.

costs an enor­mous amount to run.

Olivia says her health was im­pacted last win­ter. The ob­vi­ous question, of course, is why she and her flat­mate don’t just look for a new place. The an­swer is sim­ple: in the hy­per­com­pet­i­tive Auck­land rental mar­ket they’re not con­fi­dent they’d do bet­ter.

“It’s re­ally hard in Auck­land to find a place,” she says. “It took us a wee while to even get this one. You’re of­ten bat­tling against fam­i­lies, who will al­ways be a pri­or­ity be­cause they’ve got kids who’ll go to the lo­cal school, so that’s five years they’re likely to stay in that prop­erty… As a tenant, you do feel a lit­tle bit like [land­lords and prop­erty man­agers] have all the power.”

With the new rules in place, ten­ants like Olivia should find it easier to raise is­sues about the health of their homes. But if that still doesn’t work, me­di­a­tion can pro­vide a use­ful frame­work for ten­ants and land­lords to achieve the best re­sults for both par­ties – and meet the new stan­dards.

SAM, TENANT Grey Lynn, Auck­land

When Sam moved to Auck­land from Aus­tralia for work, the cost of rent in the cen­tral city was a shock. “For the cost of my [Grey Lynn] room,” she says, “I could rent a 4 bed­room house 20 min­utes from the Bris­bane CBD.”

Sam’s orig­i­nal plan had been to rent a one bed­room place. But when she weighed up the costs, she de­cided to go flat­ting in­stead. Be­ing in a new

city, she was re­luc­tant to dive into any shared house sit­u­a­tion. With the Grey Lynn bun­ga­low she now shares with two oth­ers, she set up a time to meet her po­ten­tial flat­mates and see how well the prop­erty was looked af­ter. She also asked if she could meet Ilse, the land­lord, be­fore she signed the con­tract, “just so I could get an un­der­stand­ing of whose house it was, be­cause I do take a lot of pride in where I live.”

Meet­ing Ilse and see­ing the state of the prop­erty gave her the con­fi­dence to move in. There was fresh paint, and she in­stantly no­ticed how warm the house was. “You could see Ilse had put a lot of hard work into it,” she says. “I think it’s im­por­tant to look for some­where that you think your land­lord would live in as well; not some­where they’re us­ing just to make a bit of coin.”

Sam had heard the hor­ror sto­ries about cold, damp New Zealand houses, and, com­ing from Queens­land, was ner­vous about her first win­ter here. But the 1940s bun­ga­low has a heat pump in the liv­ing room, “and if you open up the other rooms, it can heat the whole house in about an hour. I’ve got the big­gest bed­room, so I ac­tu­ally bought my own heater, but I’ve found I only need it on the cold­est nights in July and Au­gust.”

The house is also raised off the ground and in­su­lated, which makes a huge dif­fer­ence, both to the warmth and to avoid­ing mois­ture and mould. “Like with any old house, it’s some­thing to keep your eye on for sure,” Sam says. “But be­cause we’re clean­ing it and look­ing af­ter it, we haven’t seen any prob­lems arise.”

Sam puts the flat­mates’ will­ing­ness to keep the place tidy and well­ven­ti­lated partly down to their per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with Ilse. “I guess it brings a bit of accountabi­lity, and re­spon­si­bil­ity for both par­ties,” she says. The qual­ity of the house has also cre­ated warm con­nec­tions be­tween the flat­mates, who of­ten have din­ner to­gether out on the western-fac­ing deck. “I have to be a bit too rugged up for my lik­ing,” Sam jokes, “but it feels like Sun­day ev­ery day out there. We feel re­ally lucky.”

ILSE, LAND­LORD Grey Lynn, Auck­land

Sam’s land­lord Ilse lived in the house for a cou­ple of years, which partly ac­counts for its high stan­dard. Now, the house is part of Ilse and her hus­band’s port­fo­lio of nine ten­an­cies across seven prop­er­ties, from Whangarei to Hamil­ton.

Ilse bought her first prop­erty in 2007 when she was in her early twen­ties, and says she made “quite a few er­rors with the first one or two,” by try­ing to man­age them her­self and be the “friendly land­lord… That ac­tu­ally cost me thou­sands of dol­lars in ten­ancy costs, and chas­ing down pay­ments.”

She re­alised she needed a pro­fes­sional prop­erty man­ager. “One of the rea­sons for that is I would never pre­tend to be at the fore of all of the le­gal and tech­ni­cal de­tails around ev­ery as­pect of the build­ing, or the heat­ing and in­su­la­tion.” She now keeps a mix of pro­fes­sion­al­ly­man­aged and self-man­aged prop­er­ties in the port­fo­lio, and says she’s able to take what she learns from work­ing with prop­erty man­agers and ap­ply it to the ten­an­cies she looks af­ter her­self.

When she and her hus­band pur­chase a prop­erty, they ren­o­vate im­me­di­ately.

She says they now have quite a “welloiled model”, which in­volves in­te­rior paint­ing, new car­pet, blinds and cur­tains, ren­o­vat­ing the kitchens, bath­rooms and laun­dry, and in­stalling heat pumps and ex­trac­tor fans. In the case of the Grey Lynn house, the ten­ants no­ticed a cou­ple of draughts af­ter they moved in. Ilse got her builder in straight away to lo­cate and stop them.

The goal is to get things to a low­main­te­nance, high-qual­ity stan­dard, so she and her hus­band can at­tract the best ten­ants. Then, Ilse says, “to re­tain those best ten­ants, I need to look af­ter them. If I have fan­tas­tic ten­ants, and I have good com­mu­ni­ca­tion lines with them and can work things through to­gether, they’re more likely to feel set­tled in the prop­erty and

I’m less likely to have turnover – which is ex­tra ad­min and ex­pense. So why not help the peo­ple who are al­ready help­ing you?”

To re­tain those best ten­ants, I need to look af­ter them... they’re more likely to feel set­tled, and I’m less likely to have turnover.

RIGHT— Rudi, a land­lord, out­side one of his prop­er­ties. He’s pleased the Gov­ern­ment has brought in new rules to make homes health­ier for ten­ants, and feels the changes are long over­due.

ABOVE— FROM LEFT Ilse, Ash­leigh, Georgia and Sam. For Ilse, a land­lord with sev­eral prop­er­ties, qual­ity ren­o­va­tions and good com­mu­ni­ca­tion are the keys to mak­ing sure her ten­ants are happy, and that they’re look­ing af­ter her in­vest­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.