We often hear that New Zealand homes are cold, damp and mouldy. But where’s the research to back this up?

We know that a third of New Zealand households are renting. We also know that rental homes tend to be older and of poorer quality than owner-occupied homes. This is backed up by BRANZ – the Building Research Association of New Zealand.

BRANZ has carried out a House Condition Survey roughly every five years since 1994. The most recent one – in 2015/16(external link) – showed significant differences between rented and owner-occupied homes. And even more recently, in 2018/19, BRANZ completed a Pilot Housing Survey(external link) assessing 832 homes across New Zealand. The results from this survey show:

  • 31% of rental properties had moderate to large gaps around windows and doors (compared to 19% of owner-occupied).
  • Only 17% of houses with space under the floor had a ground moisture barrier. These barriers stop moisture rising into the house.
  • Only 37% of rental homes had an extractor fan in the kitchen, and around 50% had one installed in the bathroom
  • 41% of rental homes had 'moderate or worse' mould in the bathroom. 'Moderate' mould is considered to be roughly equivalent to the size of A4 paper.
  • 15% of rental properties had no heating at all in the living area.

Going back even further, the Household Energy End-Use Project(external link) began in New Zealand in 1995. This study collected data over an eleven year period, from 1995 until 2005. The results showed that during winter, New Zealand living rooms are at least a couple of degrees colder than they should be. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum indoor temperature of 18 degrees – and increases to 21 degrees if babies or elderly people live in the house.

If you want to read more, check out the research done by He Kainga Oranga(external link). Based at the University of Otago, this programme looks at the links between housing and health. Their research shows a definite link between poor housing and poor health outcomes.

There are many landlords all around the country who maintain and upgrade their properties, and do the right things for their tenants. But - there are also some who don't.

That's where the healthy homes standards come in. Setting minimum requirements for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture ingress and drainage and draught stopping, means we can raise the standard of rental properties, and improve the health of our tenants.

So why wait around? Whether you're a landlord or a tenant, you can take action on the health of your rental property.