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Big overhaul for building laws

Consultations have opened on the biggest change to building laws in over a decade.

The Ministry of Business, innovation and Employment (MBIE) published a discussion paper on 16 April. The paper outlines areas of concern in the industry and possible changes. They fall into 5 key areas. The proposals include:

BUILDING PRODUCTS AND METHODS

  • clarify roles and responsibilities for building products and methods
  • require manufacturers and suppliers to provide information about products
  • strengthen the product certification framework
  • easier consenting for modern construction methods (including prefabricated)

OCCUPATIONAL REGULATION

  • change the LBP scheme to lift competence and widen the definition of restricted building work
  • a new licensing system for engineers and limit who can do safety-critical engineering work
  • remove exemptions that let unlicensed people do plumbing/gasfitting/drainlaying

RISK AND LIABILITY

  • require a guarantee and insurance products for residential new builds and big alterations, with opt-out choice for homeowners

BUILDING LEVY

  • reduce the building levy from $2.01 (inc GST) to $1.50 (inc GST) (per $1,000)
  • standardize the levy threshold at $20,444 (incl GST)
  • let MBIE spend funds raised by the levy more widely

OFFENCES, PENALTIES AND PUBLIC NOTIFICATION

  • increase maximum financial penalties
  • set different maximum penalties for individuals and organisations
  • extend the time enforcement agencies can lay a charge from 6 to 12 months

The deadline for submissions is 5pm on Friday 7 June 2019.

You can find more information here.

 

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New standards for rental homes

Many rental properties will need heating, insulation and ventilation upgrades under the Government's new healthy homes standards.

Announced in February 2019, the standards set minimum requirements for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage and draught stopping in residential rental properties:

  • All rental homes must have a heater that can heat the main living area to 18C.
  • Rental homes must have ceiling and underfloor insulation that either meets the 2008 Building Code insulation standard, or (for existing ceiling insulation) has a minimum thickness of 120 mm.
  • Kitchens and bathrooms must have extraction fans or rangehoods.
  • Where rental homes have an enclosed subfloor space, property owners will need to install a ground moisture barrier to stop moisture rising into the home
  • The standards reinforce existing law that landlords must have adequate drainage and guttering to prevent water entering the home.
  • Draughts that make a home harder to heat will have to be blocked.

The timeline for the new standards is:

  • 1 July 2021 Private landlords must ensure that their rental properties comply with the healthy home standards within 90 days of any new tenancy.
  • 1 July 2021 All boarding houses must comply with the healthy home standards.
  • 1 July 2023 All Housing New Zealand houses and registered Community Housing Providers houses must comply with the healthy home standards.
  • 1 July 2024 All rental homes must comply with the healthy home standards.

Nearly 600,000 households rent in New Zealand. BRANZ research has found that rental housing is of significantly poorer quality than owner-occupied housing.

The Ministry of Health says 6,000 children are admitted to hospital each year for health problems caused or made worse by poor housing. These children are nearly four times more likely to be re-hospitalised than the average child and 10 times more likely to die in the following 10 years.

You can find more information about the healthy home standards here.

 

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House problems seen but not fixed

Just knowing that a house has safety, health or energy efficiency problems isn't enough for homeowners to take action, a study has found.

University of Otago researchers recruited 83 homeowners, including nine landlords, in Taranaki, and carried out a warrant of fitness (WOF) assessment on their homes. The WOF is a pass/fail tool covering 29 criteria that have an important impact on health, safety and energy efficiency.

While most properties passed most items, just seven (8%) passed the whole WOF, while 76 (92%) failed in one or more criteria.

In areas to do with safety, most properties passed criteria for lighting, power outlets and light switches, and intact wall, ceiling and floor linings. Most common failings were having slippery/mossy paths, decks and other surfaces (30% failed) and not having window security stays where required in living areas (21% failed).

In health areas, most homes had a mould-free living area, a potable water supply, and an operational toilet, shower and sewage connection. Most common failings were not having functional spouting and stormwater (22% failed) and bathroom surfaces clear of mould (15% failed).

For areas with links to multiple criteria, most common failings were lack of a ground vapour barrier (55% did not have one) and having a dry subfloor (20% failed).

The researchers interviewed 40 homeowners to ask what, if any, improvements they planned to make, and barriers they saw to improving their homes.

Of the interview participants, 31(76%) had fixed or intended to fix at least one of the failures identified. They were least likely to fix issues with security stays on windows and lack of a ground vapour barrier, saying that the cost was too high or the work  would not benefit health and safety. The researchers say funding support and more information about the benefits of improvements could encourage homeowners to address the problems.   

The report was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.