Blog » Changes to the Healthy Homes Standards

Changes to the Healthy Homes Standards

Alide Elkink  |  January 13, 2022

In response to feedback from the rental industry, the Government is to introduce a number of changes to the Healthy Homes Standards (HHS) for heating, ventilation, and moisture ingress and drainage.

Changes to the calculating heating requirements

Two of the changes to the heating standard, expected to take effect in April 2022, are in response to the increased thermal performance of homes built since the introduction of the 2008 amendments to the NZ Building Code energy efficiency requirements. They are:

  • an updated heating assessment tool, and
  • more flexibility in calculating heating requirements.

Updated heating assessment tool

The heating assessment tool on the Tenancy Services website will be updated to reflect the changes to heating requirements and will allow for lower capacity heaters to be installed in rental properties built after 2008.

More flexibility in calculating heating requirements

There will also be more flexibility in being able to calculate heating requirements where properties use alternative energy-efficient technologies. Owners will be able to use a heating specialist to certify that the rental property’s heating system can heat the living room and maintain a temperature of at least 18oC on the coldest day of the year.

Provision of grace period

A period of grace for compliance with the heating requirements under the changes to the standard will be introduced to facilitate transitioning to the new heating formulas. The 90-day compliance period, which currently starts after the commencement of a new or renewed tenancy, will now start 6 months after the changes to the Standard come into effect, i.e. allowing up to 9 months to achieve compliance. The trigger date for each new tenancy is at the start of a new or renewed tenancy.

Which rental properties do the changes apply to?

The changes to the assessment for heating requirements will only apply to:

  • rental properties built after the 2008 amendments to the Building Code
  • rental properties renovated after the 2008 amendments to the Building Code
  • apartments in buildings that are at least three storeys and have a minimum of six units. 

The current heating formula will continue to be applicable to all other rental properties that are built before 2008 and are not apartments. 

Other changes to the heating standard

Other changes to the heating standard include:

  • ‘top-up’ allowances to existing heating
  • tolerances relaxed for existing heating
  • use of geothermal heating.

‘Top-up’ allowances to existing heating

In properties where heaters were installed before 2019 and meet the HHS but do not provide the required heating capacity, ‘top-up’ heating is permitted. The top-up allowance is currently 1.5 kW maximum additional heating capacity but this is to be increased to 2.4 kW under the changes to the legislation.

Tolerances relaxed for existing heating

Currently, where one or more existing heaters installed before 2019, meets 90% of the HHS minimum heating capacity requirement for a room, the heating requirement is deemed to be met. This tolerance is to be lowered to 80% so that an existing living room heater that provides 80% of the required heating capacity will be deemed to meet the heating standard.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUB) website states: “Once the heater needs to be replaced due to wear and tear it will need to meet the full requirement of the healthy homes heating standard.” It is not clear at this stage, whether this only applies if there is a single heater in the living room or if it also applies where there are two (or more) heaters in the room.

Use of geothermal heating

Properties using direct geothermal heating are currently not deemed to be compliant with the heating requirements because the heating capacity is not stated. Under the changes, the use of direct geothermal heating for rental properties will be granted an exemption to the heating standard.

Nightingale Properties view

We think relaxing some of the heating rules makes sense and arguably should have been considered prior to the introduction of the Healthy Homes Standards. Newer, well insulated houses simply do not need the same level of heating as an older, not so well insulated and sometimes draughty homes.

The relaxed ‘top-up’ allowances and tolerances of the required heating capacity also provide more flexibility for owners.

For more information

For more information, go to the website here.