Improving housing quality in Porirua

The Council has a long-standing interest in the quality of housing in Porirua. Living in substandard housing disproportionately affects children from low-income families, Māori and Pacific peoples, who are more likely to live in rental accommodation. Rental houses are more likely to be damp and cold, leading to more colds and flu which aggravates respiratory conditions like asthma and serious diseases like rheumatic fever.

Making your home dry, warm and pollution-free will make it a healthy home and also save you money and energy.

The Council has some regulatory powers to help address unsafe housing as well as an important advocacy and promotional role for healthy housing, as outlined further below:

Council options to improve housing quality

The Council reviewed its options to influence the quality of rental housing in 2015. It was concluded that the current legislation is inadequate for addressing poor quality rental housing issues. The Council is advocating with central government to have these issues better addressed by legislation at a national level.

In January 2016 the Council made a submission on the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill that proposed mandatory long-life smoke alarms and insulation. We indicating our support for the bill but requested inclusion of a broader range of requirements for private rentals.   

The Council is also submitting in support of the Healthy Housing Guarantee Bill (No.2) that requires all rental properties to have heating and insulation.  Again, the Council supports the proposed changes but would like to see additional requirements, at the very least requirements for heating, insulation and ventilation.

A remit has also been prepared for consideration at the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) Annual General Meeting in July 2016.  The remit requests that "LGNZ urgently engages with the Government on ways to strengthen minimum standards for rental housing to ensure that all rental homes are warm, dry and healthy to live in". 

The Council has also committed to working with other agencies to promote all facets of creating healthy homes and will also monitor substandard housing indicators as part of its annual status report on children and young people.

Porirua Remit to LGNZ

As part of Council’s advocacy role to improve the quality of housing in the City, it submitted a remit to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) on 24 July 2016.  The remit, supported by Council’s from other metropolitan areas, asked LGNZ to urgently engage with the Government on ways to strengthen minimum standards for rental housing to ensure it is warm, dry and healthy to live in.  93% of Councils voted in support of this remit.  The Council is delighted with this result and will monitor developments between LGNZ and the Government on this important issue. 

Regulatory Requirements

Residential Tenancies Act

Are you a tenant or landlord? Tenancy Services provides information about your basic rights and what you must do under New Zealand tenancy law and guidance on dealing with common tenancy issues. The Council has no monitoring or enforcement role under the Residential Tenancies Act.

Landlords and tenants have a range of options for resolving disputes - which are handled by the Tenancies Tribunal. It is important that tenants keep paying their rent throughout any dispute process, otherwise it will likely jeopardise their ability to get redress through the Tribunal.

The Government has recently passed amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act (and associated regulations) to make homes warmer, drier and safer.  If you rent privately, live in social housing, are a private rental or social housing landlord, these changes are likely to affect you.

From 1 July 2016 all rental properties will be required to have long life smoke alarms.  There is also a new requirement for insulation (ceiling and under-floor).The requirement for insulation comes into force for income related rent tenancies on 1 July 2016 and for all other tenancies 1 July 2019.

Rental Asset Report service (Sustainability Trust)

The Sustainability Trust is offering a new service to landlords in response to the new requirements under the Residential Tenancies Act 2016. The Rental Asset Report service involves a detailed building inspection to determine the level of insulation, heating and moisture in the home.  Landlords are given a Rental Asset Report with recommendations on what needs to be done to ensure properties are compliant with the new Act. They can install tamper-free 10 year smoke alarms if required. 

The Rental Asset Report service is available to landlords for $110 + GST.  More information on is available on the Sustainability Trust website.

Additional information:

Health Act

The Council regulates the following aspects of the Health Act and Housing Improvement Regulations:

  • The landlord is responsible for ensuring the property is sound and that moisture does not enter the house from outside or from leaking pipes, ie if the source of dampness results from a building defect, such as poor building materials, construction, or leaking pipes.
  • Tenants are responsible for cleaning and maintaining premises to keep them free from mould, eg adequate heating and ventilation of clothes driers.
  • The Council can issue orders targeted at both tenant and landlord where the cause of dampness is the condition of a dwelling. Regulatory options include a cleansing order, which is requirement to cleanse the property, or nuisance notice, eg to remove build-up of rubbish.

Find out more:

The Building Act

The Building Act and the Building Code largely focus on the way that buildings are designed and constructed, and is mostly helpful for tenants in new or recently-renovated dwellings. For tenants in older houses, the Building Act provides some opportunity for the Council to manage actual and foreseeable harm relating to the building by:

  • identifying a building as dangerous or insanitary
  • declaring a building as dangerous, ie when there is an immediate threat that is likely to cause death or injury to people in or near it or damage to other property
  • declaring a building insanitary, including if the building has insufficient or defective provisions against moisture penetration so as to cause dampness in the building or in any adjoining building

Find out more:

Assistance Programmes

EECA WarmUp New Zealand: Healthy Homes

Assistance with ceiling and underfloor insulation is available to all low-income households with people who have health needs related to cold, damp housing.

For landlords - if your main tenant and property meets the following criteria - then a subsidy of 60% is currently available for landlords to insulate the rental property:

  • The main tenant has a Community Services Card.
  • They have either children 17 years (and under), adults over 65 years, or someone with a health issue living in their home.
  • The rental property was built before the year 2000.

Find out more: Sustainability Trust and Energywise

Greater Wellington insulation assistance

The Greater Wellington Regional Council offers ratepayers up to $3,900 in financial assistance for home insulation. It can be repaid through a targeted rate on your regular rates bill over nine years.

Find out more: Greater Wellington Regional Council

Housing Assessment and Advice Service

The Housing Assessment and Advice Service (HAAS) is a free programme offered by Regional Public Health. The programme aims to improve the wellbeing and health of families/whānau by promoting healthy housing and linking them to appropriate health, social and housing interventions.

This includes a free home visit by a Regional Public Health public health nurse to low income families/whānau identified as having a housing related health condition, ie respiratory condition, rheumatic fever, meningococcal disease and severe skin infections. During this visit the nurse completes a housing, health and social needs assessment and links families to appropriate services, provides education to families and advocates on their behalf with agencies/landlords.

Find out more: Regional Public Health

Curtain Bank

Uncovered windows can lose four or five times as much heat as an uninsulated wall. The Wellington Curtain Bank provides free, fitted curtains to families around the Wellington Region.

Many landlords supply thermal-backed curtains in their properties as these are readily available and affordable.  Unfortunately they don’t wash well and the thermal backing can stick to itself and ruin the curtains if machine washed. They can be dry cleaned but this is an expensive option for landlords and tenants.

Instead of buying thermal-backed curtains, you can get lined (insulated) curtains made through the Curtain Bank. Double layering offers greater thermal qualities than thermally-backed single-layer curtains and if made from poly/cotton will wear and wash well.

The Curtain Bank closes over the summer and reopens in April to service families in need for winter.

Find out more: Sustainability Trust

Free Home Energy Assessments

A subsidised energy assessment is available to Porirua residents to get an understanding of how your household energy efficiency can be improved. The assessment covers your home’s plumbing, heating, moisture levels and insulation.

Tips for healthy homes

Warm and healthy homes are good for landlords, because:

  • A rental property that’s well-insulated and has energy-efficient heating and appliances is easier to market and can attract a higher rent.
  • Tenants are likely to stay longer in a rental property that's warm and cheap to heat. This reduces the costs of high tenant turnover.
  • Tenants in a damp or cold home are more likely to suffer avoidable illness, often resulting in unplanned medical bills and time off work. Unexpected financial burdens like this may increase the risk of missed rent payments.

For further advice how to stay dry and keep moisture out, see: