How to Make Your Rental Property Healthy Homes Compliant

How to Make Your Rental Property Healthy Homes Compliant

Make sure your rental property is compliant with Healthy Homes standards

 

On July 1 2019, the Healthy Homes standards became part of New Zealand law for the 600,000 rental properties throughout the country. 

These standards were designed to ensure every rental property meets a certain range of minimum requirements in terms of insulation, heating, moisture ingress and drainage, ventilation, and draught control. In short, these standards help to ensure that every tenant enjoys a basic level of comfort and wellbeing in their home. 

If you own a rental property in New Zealand, it’s up to you to meet these standards. Here are the key factors in making your rental compliant with the Healthy Homes standards. 

 

Meeting heating standards 

As a landlord, you must provide one or more heaters in the main living room.

This must be a fixed (non-portable) heater that provides enough warmth for the whole room, and this heater cannot be an open fire or a combustion heater. If it is a heat pump or electric heater, there must be a thermostat. 

 

Meeting insulation standards 

Every rental property must have both ceiling and underfloor insulation. 

The levels of insulation requirements actually vary across New Zealand due to the different climate zones, so it’s important to know which zone your property falls under to ensure you meet the standards. 

These standards are measured in R values, which must meet a minimum level for each zone (although the underfloor value is the same across the country). 

Zone 1: Ceiling R 2.9, underfloor R 1.3
Zone 2: Ceiling R 2.9, underfloor R 1.3
Zone 3: Ceiling R 3.3, underfloor R 1.3

 

Meeting ventilation standards 

Ventilation standards mean that every rental home must have windows that open in the living room, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom. Additionally, bathrooms and kitchens must have extractor fans. 

Also, note that windows in these areas must be able to be propped open in a fixed position, and they must be a minimum size of 5% of the floor area in that room. 

These standards are designed to ensure tenants are able to avoid mould and dampness by properly ventilating their home. This also benefits landlords, as they will be less likely to have to deal with damage caused by mould in the long term. 

 

Meeting moisture ingress and drainage standards

These standards proclaim that all properties must have efficient drainage to remove ground water, surface water, and storm water. Additionally, if your rental property has an enclosed sub-floor space, it must also have a ground moisture barrier. 

This system of water removal must include downpipes, gutters, and drains that remove water from the roof. 

 

Meeting draught stopping standards 

New Zealand landlords must make sure their properties do not have unreasonable holes or gaps in any doors, floors, skylights, windows, walls, or ceilings that cause noticeable draughts. Also, if you have an unused fireplace in your property, it must be closed off or blocked to avoid draughts. 

These standards are in place to avoid making it difficult to heat a home, and to avoid high power bills associated with heating a draughty home. 

Finally, note that there are some exemptions for these standards, and not all standards have taken effect (however they must all be met by July 1 2024). Be sure to check the finer points of each standard and know the compliance dates of each one to ensure your property passes the test on the New Zealand Tenancy Services website

If you need help ensuring your property meets any of these standards, get in touch with Maintain Your Property for a free quote to get started. We offer reliable general handyman skills and home maintenance to assist New Zealand landlords with maintaining and upgrading their properties. 

Do you know your fencing rights?

Do you know your fencing rights?

Know your fencing rights

A big backyard with plenty of grassy space is a Kiwi dream, especially for those with kids or pets who can enjoy playing outdoors. Often, this includes a fence for privacy, security, and protection from neighbourhood noise.

Whether you have an existing fence you’re looking to replace or upgrade, or you’re planning to build a new fence from scratch, it is important to first understand your rights and obligations. Fencing rights in New Zealand outline how neighbours should work together to make fencing decisions and come to an agreement when the fence is located along the adjoining property line.

 

New Zealand fencing rights – and exemptions 

The key fencing right to remember is that the cost of building or upgrading any fence on a shared property boundary must be paid for equally by the occupiers of those properties.

However, there are some exemptions from this rule.

The first is that costs do not have to be shared when there is a written agreement or contract stating so. This is the most common in the case of subdivisions, and you will be able to find details on your initial property paperwork.

Another exemption is if both parties agree to pay different amounts. Perhaps you would like to build a fence and are happy to pay for the entire cost, whereas a neighbour is indifferent and not able to contribute financially. Should you both agree to you covering the full cost, you can move ahead with your build.

Finally, the last exemption for shared fencing costs is if one neighbour damages or destroys the fence. It is then up to that neighbour to pay for the repairs or replacement.

 

Creating a fencing notice 

Once you understand your fencing rights and are ready to move ahead with your projects, there are a few steps you’ll need to take. The first is to create a fencing notice for your neighbour.

To start, this notice must include both of your names and addresses. It must also clearly outline:

  • The shared boundary on which you wish to build a fence
  • The type of fence you’re planning
  • The estimated total cost
  • Who will do the building work
  • How the materials will be attained
  • When work will begin

You must sign and date the notice, and keep a copy for yourself. This notice must also make it clear that your neighbour has 21 days to either accept the project, or submit an objection. If they do not respond or accept within that time, they will be deemed as accepting the proposal, and will be required to pay half the cost.

 

What is a cross-notice?

If your neighbour does not want a new fence or upgrades, they can serve you with a cross-notice objecting to your proposal. This can also be because they think your proposal is excessive or unnecessary in some way.

Keep in mind, your neighbour is only obligated to pay for half of an ‘adequate’ fence. If you decide to build a fence made from pure gold, your neighbour will still only have to pay for half of what a simple wooden fence would cost.

Should the two of you not be able to come to an agreement, you will need to seek arbitration, mediation, or help from a Distributes Tribunal. Fortunately, most neighbours can come to some sort of agreement without requiring third party assistance.

Be sure to view the Fencing Act of 1978 for further details.

If you are looking to create a fencing notice and need a quote for the work, Maintain Your Property can help to provide details around costs, materials, and work start dates. We work locally in the Wellington and Hutt Valley area, and offer free quotes to help you get started.

When Do I Need a Retaining Wall?

When Do I Need a Retaining Wall?

Why and how to make use of retaining walls on your property.

A retaining wall has one primary purpose: to retain. To put it simply, retaining in this context means supporting soil laterally so that it can be kept at two different levels on either side. Such walls can be made out of wood, brick, stone, and just about anything else you’d make a wall from, and they are very useful in landscaping to differentiate and level various parts of a lawn or garden.

Are retaining walls a want or a need? The answer is a mixed one: Often, they are necessary in order to achieve things that you may want to do with your property. Read on to find out when a retaining wall should be used and how to go about it.

 

Angle of repose

The “angle of repose” of the soil in the area you are working with is the major consideration for whether a retaining wall will be required. This refers to the natural slope of the spoil, which will depend on the type of soil in question, and whether there is vegetation holding it in place. If you would like to make changes that will create a steeper slope than what is naturally occurring—i.e flattening out a section of lawn which in turn means that another section has less space in which to fall—then a retaining wall is needed.

A good retaining wall will hold soil back against its tendency to move downhill and achieve its natural angle of repose. The more soil being held back, the stronger the wall will need to be!

 

Why build a wall?

There are many reasons a property owner might want to change the natural angle of repose of their land. It can create flatter surfaces on either side of the wall, which is fantastic for lawns, patios, and more stable vegetable or flower gardens. Retaining walls can be used to keep soil back from driveways or away from walls and basements to reduce dampness. They can also create walkable pathways.

Retaining walls can also prevent soil erosion. When land is flattened above or below the retaining wall (or on both sides), runoff is reduced. This means less soil is eroded.

 

Rules and recommendations for retaining walls

Once you have determined that a retaining wall must be built, the legalities are the next matter of concern. Additionally, if you are undertaking a large project it may pay to consult with an engineer to ensure your plans can be fulfilled safely. You should also check the title document for your property to discover whether there are any restrictions surrounding earthworks—particularly if your property is steeply sloped or near a natural feature like a river or cliff. If you are planning to build your wall from wood, a very common material for retaining walls on residential properties, you should ensure good drainage so that water does not sit in the soil being retained and cause the structure to rot.

Generally, building consent is not required for retaining walls which retain less than one and a half metres (in depth) of ground, if it is not also supporting any additional load. For example, if the retained soil will support a driveway or the ground slopes steeply above the retaining wall, consent is required. If the fall is more than one metre, a safety barrier should also be constructed.

Retaining walls are an extremely useful tool in any landscaper’s arsenal. To be effective in their goals, they should be constructed well—and this is especially important for any wall that is sizeable or supports a significant load of soil. If you’d like help to get your retaining right, contact the Maintain Your Property team. We are experienced in planning, constructing, and maintaining strong and effective retaining walls, and would love to chat with Wellington property owners about this and any other maintenance services for commercial and residential properties.

On The Fence: Painting or Staining?

On The Fence: Painting or Staining?

Should you treat your fence with a lick of paint or splash of stain?

Adding some colour to your fence with paint or a stain can do more than just add an aesthetic advantage. While fences may look pretty, they also serve some very valuable functions: keeping dogs in, keeping unwanted visitors out, providing privacy, and marking property boundaries. To fulfill their life’s purpose effectively, they have to stay standing and remain sturdy.

Painting or staining your fence is a great way to increase its longevity. Damp and moisture are enemies to any bare timber; sealing the structure with one of the many products available will allow it to stay drier and stronger as the seasons and years pass by. Style, of course, is also part of the equation. A rich, dark stain, a black or white hue, or a bold colour on your fence can add kerb appeal and make your yard a more visually pleasing place to be.

Which is better, painting or staining? There’s no simple answer—as is often the case, it depends on what you hope to achieve. Both can provide protection and make your fence look good. We’ve laid out the pros and cons of each to help you decide on your fence treatment.

 

Cost

Painting a fence is generally considered to be more expensive than staining one. The paint is pricier, and an undercoat or other primer may also be required. Stain, however, must be reapplied more often, and a larger volume of it may be used in application. The price difference between the two methods works out to be quite negligible and varies widely according to the quality and brand of the product. However, for the best results it’s a good idea to splash out on good quality outdoor paint or stain.

 

Appearance

This, of course, is very subjective. Stain offers a more natural-looking finish, closer to the look of bare timber—although modern stain options include a wider range of colours. Paint can offer a sharper and more vibrant appearance. If you want something very dark, properly white, or brightly coloured, paint will be your best option.

An important thing to consider will be how your chosen treatment will look as it ages. Stains penetrate deeply into wood, which means that as they get older the colour will just start to fade evenly. This gives the fence a pleasantly weathered look.  Paint, on the other hand, can chip and peel, leaving bare patches and an uneven, messier look. As stain can absorb unevenly on rougher surfaces, it is often recommended as a good option for a new fence, while sanding and painting is the preferred treatment for an older one.

 

Convenience

Which is easier? Generally speaking, a stain is the simpler of the two options to apply yourself. To prepare the surface, all that’s required is a quick waterblasting or scrub with a stiff brush. Stain can then be applied directly to the fence.

Preparing to paint involves cleaning, sanding, primer, and possibly several coats. As paint is thicker than stain and gives an opaque cover, it is less forgiving and requires a more careful application to achieve the desired look.

Both paint and stain can be finished with a sealant, but in some cases this is not necessary. Check the product you are using to see whether this is recommended.

 

Protection

Both paint and stain offer a fence great protection against the elements. Paint, particularly oil-based paint, tends to provide the best protection against moisture as it forms a thicker coating over the wood. However, this is most effective only when the paint is well-maintained, and the protection factor can reduce quickly as paint chips off.

Stain does not give as much protection but it does penetrate deeper into the wood, which means that it does offer some degree of protection even as it fades. If you are looking for heavy-duty protection, the best course of action would be to paint your fence with oil-based paint and keep on top of the maintenance by touching it up or repainting regularly.

Still on the fence? At the end of the day, both of these methods will protect your fence against the elements and make them look good. And both require regular maintenance for continued effectiveness. For a new fence, staining may win out—but for an older one, painting often gives the best finish and protection.

 

Maintain Your Property offers home and rental property maintenance services in the Wellington region, making it easy to paint, stain, and maintain your fences. Contact the team to book in a job or discuss the best options for your property.

Should you use composite wood or timber decking?

Should you use composite wood or timber decking?

There’s nothing quite like spending a long, lazy summer afternoon outside on the deck. But long before there are barbecues and platters of cheese and Kiwi onion dip, decisions must be made about something much more fundamental – the deck itself. 

For anyone building a deck from scratch or rebuilding an old, failing deck, a decision must be made about materials. Namely, whether the new deck will be built with traditional timber, or the modern alternative of composite decking. The decision is entirely personal, and should be made once you have a strong idea of the pros and cons of each option. 

To get you started, here’s what you can expect from both composite wood and timber materials in your decking. 

The case for composite

Composite wood is a combination of wood fibres – largely reclaimed timber – and recycled plastic.

Up close, you can usually tell right away that the ‘plank’ you are touching is not real wood, however composite has been designed to look and feel quite similar to the real thing, and it’s much harder to tell when looking at the finished product. 

The fact that no trees are cut down to create composite wood means this is marketed as a highly eco-friendly option. The only downside here is that in using plastics, it may be harder to deal with decades down the track should you ever need to reuse or dispose of your timber, so keep this in mind.

Composite timber offers a variety of other benefits, as well. It functions excellently in all types of New Zealand conditions, from windswept seafronts to hot and dry areas in the north to rainy and chilly spots in the south. It is naturally resistant to mould, bugs, mildew, and rot, and it won’t splinter with age. This material is also designed not to warp, and it takes virtually zero maintenance to keep it looking its best (a quick annual wash with soapy water is all it needs). Finally, composite wood is expected to fade ever so slightly within the first few months of installation, but won’t fade beyond that. This gives it a fantastic staying power, even when faced with countless sunny afternoons. 

The composite wood market in New Zealand is still relatively new, but aside from general awareness of the product, one of the main drawbacks is that it is a higher cost than timber options. 

Talking timber 

Timber is the traditional choice for countless decks around New Zealand, and it’s easy to see why. First, it’s important to note that there are two main types of timber to choose from, hardwoods and treated pine. 

Hardwoods – particularly tropical hardwoods – are exceptionally durable and long lasting. Hardwoods used in New Zealand (such as kwila, mahogany, and vitex) are usually sourced from sustainable plantations, meaning that by using it, you are not contributing to the destruction of wild forest lands. These woods are loved for their natural rich colours, resistance to splintering, and the beautiful feel they give for bare feet. 

The other type of timber commonly used in New Zealand is treated pine. This is the more affordable option of the two timbers (and therefore the most budget-friendly of all decking materials), and is naturally pale in colour, meaning it is up to you to determine whether you paint it, stain it, or simply oil it. 

Treated pine is not as durable as other materials, but regular maintenance can help it last much longer. When you look after it, it can easily last for decades, but you will need to keep an eye out for splintering and discolouration, and use sealants, oils, and other products to keep it looking and feeling great. 

 

So how do you decide between composite and timber decking? It will likely come down to your budget, style preferences, and willingness (or resistance!) to do regular maintenance work. Chat to the team at Maintain Your Property for our help with building or maintaining your deck.