Rental houses damper, more poorly maintained: BRANZ Thursday, 27 April 2017

Source: Stuff, 27 April 2017

A big gap continues to exist between the state of rental housing and housing lived in by owners.

A just-released 2015 survey by BRANZ, the Building Research Association, found owner-occupied houses were twice as likely to be well maintained than rented ones.

The survey shows nearly a third of rented houses, 32 per cent, were poorly maintained, and a quarter were well maintained.

However, that was an improvement on five years ago, when 44 per cent were in poor shape.

By contrast, only 14 per cent of owner-occupied houses were poorly maintained, down from 25 per cent in 2010, with 48 per cent being in a good state (up from 42 per cent).

Only one per cent of all houses was rated by the assessor as being in an overall "poor" condition, meaning they needed attention within three months.

The assessor also measured dampness. Nearly a third of rentals felt damp to the assessor by varying degrees, with 18 per cent feeling a little damp, 10 per cent damp in places and 3 per cent feeling quite damp or damp throughout.

​By contrast, 11 per cent of owner occupied houses felt damp in some way.

The BRANZ survey visited 560 houses, 149 of which were rented and the rest privately owned. 

Phillipa Howden-Chapman, a professor of public health at Otago University, said BRANZ had had some difficulty getting into rental properties. In reality, about half of all Kiwis were renting.

But she said it was a good study which highlighted the need for more data. One way would be to conduct a random sample during a census.

"There's a discussion going on in government at the moment about whether in fact it's possible to get a much larger random survey over the whole country to look at the quality of housing, and we've been calling for that for some time."

More importantly, BRANZ's survey showed that New Zealand housing in general was lagging behind the developed world.

"It's yet another reason why we need a rental warrant of fitness, because it's a market, the private rental market, ... where there's information 'assymetry'.

"How does the tenant find out whether there's insulation in the ceiling or under the floor?

"How does the tenant find out of it's a leaky building? They don't at the moment.

"There's new legislation coming in [where] the landlord has to tell them what kind of insulation they've got or not, but they don't have to do anything about it until 2019."

Her colleague, Professor Michael Baker, a specialist in infectious disease, said it was known that more people were being taken in by friends and relatives, providing ripe conditions for illnesses spread by close contact. 

Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the 1978 insulation standards were inadequate.

"A bit of Batts in the ceiling is a start but proper standards including ventilation, heating sources, weathertightness, drainage, and modern insulation levels are needed to make rentals healthy to live in."

The faster turnover of tenants did have an effect on maintenance, BRANZ noted.

About three-quarters of the owner-occupied houses had been lived in their houses for more than 7 years, compared to under 40 per cent of renters.

"Moving house could affect householders' ability and willingness to undertake repairs and maintenance," the study said.