Health and Safety in Rental Properties Webinar – What Landlords Need to Know

Posted by Auckland Property Management Ltd on May 3, 2021 | Company News, News, Property Management, Video Blog

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Toni Heath, Auckland Property Management Business Development Manager, discusses the legislation around health and safety for rental properties and is joined by Auckland Property Management Health and Safety Officer Peter McDell.

Welcome to the webinar on ‘Health and Safety in Rental Properties – What Landlords Need to Know about Current Legislation’

Legislation Overview

Landlords need to comply with various laws and by-laws that apply to renting a property.  The most important legislation that landlords are required to be familiar with is the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, which …

  • Requires landlords to provide and maintain rental properties in a reasonable state of repair
  • Whilst the RTA doesn’t directly regulate the standard of rental properties, it does reinforce…
  • A general understanding of health and safety related requirements in the following laws:
    1. RTA Amendments 2020
    2. Healthy Homes Guarantee Act 2019
    3. Housing Improvement Regulations 1947
    4. Building Act 2004
    5. Health Act 1956
    6. Bylaws made under Local Government Act 2002 (set by individual councils)

Residential Tenancies Amendment Act (RTA) 2020

Majority of these amendments took effect 11th February 2021.

We have recorded a webinar dealing with the amendments in detail, please click here to view this recorded session.

Under the topic of health and safety, the amendment act covers the following areas:

  • Tenant liability for careless destruction or damage in rental properties
    • If tenants damage a rental property as a result of careless behaviour, they will be held liable for the cost of the damage up to a maximum of 4 weeks rent or the landlord’s insurance excess, whichever is lower.
    • Landlords will need to provide insurance information in any new tenancy agreement, including whether the property is insured or not and if so, what the excess amount is.  The statement in the tenancy agreement must also inform the tenant that a copy of their insurance policy is available upon request ($500 penalty fine).
  • Unlawful residential properties
    • Tenants who live in converted garages, sleep-outs, warehouses or industrial buildings are not always protected by the RTA.
    • The new Act amends the definition of “residential premises” to include the above options, however under the Act they are not considered a legal dwelling (intended to be lived in) and now allows Tenancy Services the ability to take enforcement measures against landlords who breach this.
    • Landlords must comply with all legal requirements relating to building health and safety that apply to premises, and must also ensure that the premises can legally be lived in at the start of a tenancy.
  • Contamination of premises (methamphetamine)
    • The acceptable level for meth contamination has changed over the years, and updated regulations will be developed over the next year.
    • These regulations will include acceptable levels for meth contamination, processes for testing (including when to test) and decontamination of rental properties.
    • Landlords may test for meth in rental properties whilst tenants are living there, however they must provide 48 hours’ notice.
    • Tenants are to be told what contaminant is being tested for, and landlords must share the test results in writing with the tenant within 7 days of receiving them.
    • Once relevant regulations are in place, landlords will not be able to knowingly rent premises that are contaminated above the prescribed level without decontamination.  $4,000 penalty fine

Healthy Homes Guarantee Act 2019

We have recorded a webinar discussing healthy homes legislation in detail, please click here to view a recording of this session.

The deadlines for the five healthy homes standards are as follows:

1st December 2020 – Statement of compliance is needed

1st July 2021 – Compliance with the Act for any new or renewed tenancies

1st July 2024 – Compliance for ALL rental homes

Briefly, the five standards are:

  • Heating – Largest living area, fixed heater with heating capacity 1.5kW
  • Insulation – Ceiling insulation, minimum 120mm thickness. Underfloor insulation, at least R1.3
  • Moisture – Ground moisture barrier (GMB). Storm water management and guttering
  • Ventilation – Kitchen and bathrooms extractor fans – ducted outside
  • Draught stopping – Doors, windows, pet doors (magnetic), open fireplaces, etc.

Housing Improvement Regulations 1947

this regulation sets the minimum requirements for housing, enforced by local authorities.

  • Room size, function and safety
    • Each property must have a functionable kitchen, bathroom with running hot water, toilet for exclusive use by tenants, laundry area
  • Light, ventilation, drainage and dampness
    • Bathrooms and toilet rooms must have window or extraction fan for ventilation
    • Every habitable room must have windows or another means of letting in light and ventilation
    • Timber floors must have enough underfloor space and ventilation to prevent dampness and decay
    • Drainage must be provided to remove storm water, surface water and ground water – gutters, downpipes and drains to remove roof water
  • Overcrowding
    • Must be enough facilities for number of people living in the house (bathrooms and toilets)
    • Bedrooms must be at least 6sqm for a single occupant
    • May not advertise property as having certain number of bedrooms if they don’t meet regulations
  • Sewerage and sanitation
    • Every toilet and sink must connect to an adequate sewerage system or other means of disposal
    • If a wastage system is provided, landlord must maintain it (e.g. empty septic tank)
  • Heating
    • Every living room must have an approved form of heating

The Building Act 2004

This legislation governs the construction of new buildings, and the alteration and demolition of existing buildings which includes:

  • Safe and healthy buildings
  • Escape routes in case of fire
  • Sustainable development

Compliance with the Building Code needs to include: Structural stability, Fire safety, Access, Moisture control, Durability, Services and facilities

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

To understand this Act you need to understand that a PCBU is a person/persons in charge of business or undertaking. In relation to property, a PCBU could be:

  • Residential property managers and landlords: duties only apply when work being carried out at or on property.
  • Bodies corporate (under the Unit Titles Act): duty to ensure health and safety of everyone involved with or affected by work on the common areas of the property that the Body Corporate organises or is responsible for.
  • Commercial tenants are also PCBUs and have the same duty of care as other PCBUs to ensure the health and safety of their own workers and others.

Primary duty of care under the Act is to:

  • Ensure work is carried out safely and all foreseeable hazards are under control or minimised
  • Ensure any work carried out which is under the PCBUs influence and control does not cause any harm to tenants, contractors and public members
  • Ensure qualified and competent people are hired to carry out any services of repair on the premises
  • Ensure everyone who may be affected by the work that is being carried out are informed and notified of potential hazards

Overlapping duties:

  • PCBUs (property managers, landlords and contractors) must consult, communicate, cooperate and coordinate with each other to ensure work is undertaken in a safe and healthy way
  • Risk assessments and investigations to be carried out by PCBUs to determine best way to manage health and safety risks.
  • Whether commercial or residential properties, PCBUs must have health and safety policies, procedures and standards in place.  All risks must be mitigated and managed by all involved parties

There is a three tier penalty system for non-compliance to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. Landlords who recklessly expose individuals to serious risk or injury, illness or death may be liable for 5 years imprisonment and a fine up to $600,000 for individuals and a $3 million fine for companies.

Safety Certificates

Annual servicing and certification of the following areas are considered the responsibilities of landlords (PCBUs under the Health and Safety Act)

  • Gas appliances (cooker, heating, water)
  • Electrical certificate
  • Fire safety (smoke alarms)
  • Swimming pool
  • Septic tanks

Fire Safety (smoke alarms)

  • Photoelectric 10 year life or hardwired
  • Within 3 metres of each bedroom door, or in every room a person sleeps
  • One each level of multi-level home

Landlord responsibility – Working smoke alarms at start of tenancy and needs to remain in working order during tenancy.

Tenant responsibility – Do not damage, remove or disconnect smoke alarms and are to advise landlord of any issues

Asbestos Management

Landlords are obligated to identify asbestos in their rental properties and document plans for risk management in an asbestos management plan.

  • Scenario 1: demolition of shed – A Landlord is planning demolition of shed located at the rear of a rental property.  The shed is of both an age and type that is likely to contain asbestos (built prior to 1 Jan 2000 with elements that may contain asbestos). Before demolition, landlord must ensure all asbestos is identified and removed.  An asbestos management plan needs to be prepared during the planning process, prior to demolition. A licensed asbestos removalist can prepare the plan. The house doesn’t need to be included in the asbestos management plan because the work doesn’t involve the house.
  • Scenario 2: renovating the kitchen- Landlord is planning refurbishment of the kitchen of a rental property.  The property is of an age and type that is likely to contain asbestos. Before refurbishment begins, landlord must ensure all asbestos from the kitchen and bathroom is identified and removed.  An asbestos management plan is to be prepared during the planning stage and a licensed asbestos removalist should be involved to ensure removal is carried out safely and in accordance with regulations. There is no requirement to identify all asbestos and prepare an asbestos management plan for the areas of the house not being renovated because there is no risk of exposure there

Property Maintenance

Landlords or their appointed property managers should be carrying out regular inspections as part of the landlord’s insurance requirements but also to check that there is no damage and the tenant is keeping the rental property clean and tidy.

Property managers will also check areas that require preventative maintenance during regular inspections as well, these areas include:

  • Heat pump / HVAC service
  • Fixing leaks / plumbing issues
  • Waterblast decking / driveways
  • Gutter cleaning and roof inspections
  • Tree / bush pruning
  • Pest control
  • Chimneys (annual sweep)
  • Painting (interior / exterior)
  • Flushing water heater

 

Q & A with Peter McDell, Auckland Property Management Health and Safety Officer

Peter McDell is Auckland Property Management’s appointed Health and Safety Office and during this webinar he answers a few questions specific to legislation around rental properties and Health and Safety.

Click on the video above to listen to the full interview.

If you have any questions about Health and Safety legislation as relating to rental properties then please feel free to contact your Property Manager, or complete the form below and one of our team will be in touch.

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