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Today is a FREE taste of an Insight Politics article by Stephen Berry that was first published 21 February 2020.

What Scapegoating Landlords is Gonna Cost You

Last week I wrote about the terrible fate that awaits Labour’s own voters as a consequence of scapegoating other groups to secure votes. With Auckland rents increasing by an average of 15% from 2015-19 and the waiting list for social housing growing 142% under this Government, the consequences of this cheap form of gutter politics are becoming clear. However they aren’t going to be self-evident in time for the election in September. The Healthy Homes’ Standards contained within the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act do not start taking effect until July 2021 and the deadline for all private rentals to comply is July 2024; i.e. in the middle of Labour’s hoped for third term.

This week, I seek to get the ball rolling much earlier. I’m going through the incoming Healthy Homes Standards to find out how much they’re going to cost your landlord and you. The current median rent in Auckland Central is $540 and I’ll assume a landlord will seek to recover their costs within a 12 month period.

Contamination of Premises

Regulations are still being developed to determine the acceptable level for methamphetamine contamination. Landlords must give 48hrs notice that they are testing for contamination, what they are testing for and share the results (in writing) within seven days of receiving them.

Once those regulations are in place, landlords knowingly renting premises which are contaminated above the prescribed level face a maximum fine of $4,000. A laboratory composite test for a 1-3 bedroom home is $239 + gst from Meth Testing New Zealand. Considering the poor likelihood of recouping costs from methamphetamine-using tenants, I’d imagine this is one high-risk gamble landlords aren’t going to take.

Increase to rent: probably zero.

Heating

There must be fixed heating devices, capable of achieving a minimum temperature of at least 18C in the living room only. The new regulations clarify the requirements for heating devices – some will not meet the requirements under the new heating standard as they are inefficient, unaffordable or unhealthy A heating assessment tool can be used to calculate the heating requirements in your living room.

This sounds fun, so I thought I’d try it out for the premises I rent in Auckland.

How old is your house? 1978-2000

Where is your home located? Auckland

What is the floor area of your living room? 29.6m2

Does your living room have a staircase that it is always open to? Yes, 1

What is the floor area of the rooms or hallways on this level that are always open to your staircase? 2.1m2

Holy shit, this is actually going to look really boring detailing everything I’m checking. If this were a movie, we’d be doing a montage right now.

Result: You need 5.1kW of heating capacity to heat your living room. Your heaters need to provide this heating capacity with an outdoor temperature of 1C.

The TCL370150 – TAC-18CHS2 / XA from Trade Depot costs $1599.

My landlord’s time finding this information (1 hour x median wage $25.40)

Annual Running Costs = $210

Increase to rent: $31.24 weekly

Increase to power  bill: $4.04 weekly

Ventilation

Every habitable room in the house must have windows that can be opened, which obviously doesn’t apply to anyone sleeping under the stairs because they can’t afford to rent a bedroom. I’m a little surprised this needs be mentioned but I am a JAFA. There is no stipulation on how much the door, window or skylight must be able to open, but the area of those windows and doors must be at least 5% of the floor area of the room. But be warned, complying too enthusiastically with ventilation requirements will increase the cost of meeting heating standards and completely sink your chances of meeting the draught prevention standards. The openable doors and windows must also be 100% closeable.

Perhaps government tyranny isn’t the most disrespectful fate that could accompany progressive left regimes. It’s the bureaucrats who write, at the behest of arrogant leftist twats in Cabinet, Captain Obvious’ Guide to Houses that really mobilise my blood pressure. What do they think will happen if they do not stipulate a door must close and open? The ability to open is a pre-requisite for the ability to close otherwise it isn’t a friken door, is it? Next the Minister for Sport and Recreation will roll out a compulsory, one foot in front of the other, method of walking to stop injuries caused by extra-gastro ground visual impairment.

However, rooms which almost certainly would have been built with windows that open, such as the kitchen or bathroom have another standard again to comply. That is an extractor fan that leads to an external wall; at least 120mm in diameter (bathrooms) or 150mm in diameter (kitchens) and an exhaust capacity of at least 25 litres per second. 

A Manrose Pro-series Through Wall Fan Kit with a diameter of 125mm can be purchased on plumbingplus.co.nz for $182. For the kitchen, a Robinhood RPB3CL6SS/WH Ducted rangehood 150mm in diameter is $549. I’m a bit of a dummy when it comes to home DIY, hence I actually looked at the accompanying installation guide on the website. You’ll probably need to install a new electrical plug socket as well as cut two 160mm diameter holes in your kitchen wall and bathroom wall. Unsurprisingly I can’t work out what that costs without getting an onsite assessment, so I’ll just add the costs that can be measured.

Increase to rent: $14.06 weekly

Moisture Ingress and Drainage

Rental properties must have efficient drainage for the removal of stormwater, surface water and groundwater. Rental properties with an enclosed sub-floor space must have a ground moisture barrier.

Sounds complicated. Google?

Unsurprisingly it wasn’t possible to find a price, or a rule-of-thumb method of guessing the cost of installing a ground moisture barrier. It turns out that this rather grand-titled requirement is actually just polythene sheeting. Number 8 Polythene 2x10m from Mitre 10 is $19.98. I’d buy four to account for errors.

However, it would appear this particular regulation will cause more harm than good. An August 5 2019 stuff.co.nz article suggests that moisture barriers could actually damage houses.

“Rental properties are required to have underfloor insulation and ground moisture barriers in most cases.

But Paul Beaumont, a former repiler, said moisture barriers stopped water going where it was meant to and could cause piles to sink.

“I used to crawl under a house to put the piles in and the ground was dry and dusty like it should be. Then people put underfloor insulation and polythene in there and six months later they say ‘why is the floor starting to drop’?

Investor Graeme Fowler said it seemed that putting down moisture barriers could create more problems than it would solve.

“In winter, many houses are damp underneath with water being fairly close to the ground surface. Over summer, this generally dries out unless there is very low airflow under the house. Having a moisture barrier on top of the ground keeps the moisture in the ground, rather than bringing it to the surface and evaporating back into the sky,” he said.

Increase to rent (assuming the house hasn’t sunk in six months): $1.54

Draught Stopping

Raisethestandard.nz directs me to the Government tenancies website, using a page stating:

What’s an unreasonable gap or hole?

It’s a common sense definition. If you can feel external air coming in or a clear draught from a gap or hole, then it’s probably a gap or hole that needs stopping.

Common sense. A term that warms up a libertarian’s gag reflex in the same way ‘moist’ does for women. Commonly used by the inarticulate, first-time local board election candidates or managers who don’t train new staff and then claim a task not done was a task that didn’t require training or instructions. If common sense were a value, communism would be a success and average would be excellence.

Fortunately, the Government tenancy website is a wee bit more informative than raisethestandard.nz, a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website. That’s right, the MBIE runs a completely uninformative website on each aspect of the Healthy Homes Standards; each page linking to the tenancy services website.

The definition of gap is an unreasonable space that a flat $2 coin (3mm) can fit into and permits air into the home. If a $2 coin is excessively complicated, the tenancy services website suggests:

You can measure the size of the gap by seeing how many pages of a notepad, magazine or book you can fit into the gap. Then measure their thickness.

How? With a ruler?

Pretty patronising from a website which tells you how to measure a gap before telling you what gaps should not be blocked. Hope the Selley’s No More Gaps I just squeezed around the edge of my front door and in keyhole hasn’t dried.

Some gaps or holes are intentional and should not be blocked. 

These include: › trickle vents – some modern windows have small vents to let fresh air trickle in 

  • key holes 
  • built-in openings for the drainage of condensation from window and door joinery. 
  • wall vents which let small amounts of fresh air into rooms
  • ventilation devices including extractor fans 
  • gaps or holes needed for the safe operation of devices such as chimneys or flues for heating devices or certain recessed downlights 
  • openings in power sockets that enable a device to be plugged in 
  • vents or drainage openings in the outside cladding of external walls, roof, soffit/eaves or in the perimeter walls of a subfloor space

(Stupidest advice on what is not a gap in bold)

Increase to rent: zero.

Cost of this stupidity to taxpayers annually: $3 billion (2019/20 budget)*

*other stupidity not included

It has been difficult to accurately determine just how big an increase the average tenant, in the average rental, paying the average amount of rent in Auckland will potentially face. Unfortunately, it is going to be far in excess of the figures I have managed to collate. Each rental will definitely have to hire a man or two to cut holes in the walls to install extractor systems. The floor of some rentals may sink into the dirt.

However, the scapegoating of landlords by this Government will cost tenants a minimum, on average, $46.84 weekly from increased rents. Accommodation costs will increase by 8.67% in twelve months for the average tenant that doesn’t cut holes in their walls. 

On April 1st, the minimum wage increases by 6.22%

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