New survey shows substandard rental accommodation

The substandard condition of New Zealand’s rental accommodation has renters and landlords divided in a new survey.

The latest HRV State of the Home Survey, conducted by research company Buzz Channel, has found 66 per cent of renters said their landlord either didn’t respond, failed to fix a problem, or “kind of made some effort to remedy an issue” they brought to their attention.

However, three quarters of landlords said they fixed a problem their tenants had as soon as possible.

The survey of 1040 people, which was commissioned by HRV and completed in association with AUT Professor of Sociology, Charles Crothers, is now in its fifth year and aims to give an insight into issues facing New Zealanders in their homes.

Professor Crothers says the conflicting attitudes of those living in rentals and property owners is at the heart of New Zealand’s rental accommodation problem.

“While many renters are living in cold, damp and substandard homes, landlords are either not doing enough to help their tenants or don’t believe the condition of their investment properties needs addressing.”

Fixing damage and doing repairs is the top priority for half of landlords whereas little importance is put on heating and ventilation (9%) and addressing mould and dampness (4%).

This disparity between the two groups carried through to how renters and landlords rated their relationship with each other.

Professor Crothers says while almost 90 per cent of landlords said their relationship with tenants was good or excellent, those who were renting had a less favourable view of their landlords.

“You would expect landlords to say their properties are up to scratch and everything is rosy with their tenants, but the reality is many people living in properties are saying this is not the case with more than a quarter of tenants having complained to landlords about their homes being cold, damp and mouldy.”

Compared to those who own their own home, renters continue to be far worse off:
• Almost 80% of renters would rather be living in a warmer, drier home compared to just half of homeowners
• Rented homes are more likely to be cold (41% vs 29% among home owners)
• Renters are more likely than home owners to have mould with almost 60% of rental properties having mould around windows and in the bathroom
• Just 36% of renters have insulation compared to 73% of home owners and renters are less likely to have double glazing, a heat pump, or a ventilation system

Professor Crothers says the state of rental accommodation is having an impact on everything from peoples’ ability to save money and buy their own home, through to paying their power bills and their health.

He says more than 60% of renters said they wanted to move out of the home they live in now compared to a third of home owners.

“Many renters are dissatisfied with their homes and the sad thing is the majority are locked into tenancy agreements, or can’t afford the rent in a better home, so they are stuck in these situations. We also found more than 60% would like to buy their first home but can’t afford to, and only a third are able to save enough to be able to potentially buy their first home.”

The condition of rental accommodation is reflected in the number of sick days renters are taking, says Professor Crothers, with 7% of renters taking more than 10 sick days a year compared to the national average of 5%.

“Those in rental accommodation are suffering in more ways than one. Around half of renters said the effects of mould, dampness and cold increased their heating costs, worsened the health of adults, and ruined furnishings. It’s not good for a family’s health to be living in a home with those sorts of conditions.”
HRV Chief Executive Bruce Gordon says with the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill taking its next successful step through parliament, New Zealand is on the right track when it comes to improving the quality of its rental accommodation.

“The passing of the bill is by no means certain but with more and more people renting it is imperative our rental accommodation is top quality. The Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill goes a long way to realising that however it will mean property owners have to embrace this change and make it happen too.”

Gordon says the importance of a warm dry home is top of mind for many Kiwis and Statistics New Zealand will also document how many New Zealanders are living in damp or mouldy homes in the next census.

He says by making their properties warm and dry landlords are future proofing their investment and the changes under the bill need not be onerous for property owners.

To provide a cost-effective solution for landlords to improve the quality of their rental properties, HRV introduced a Landlord Leasing Solution.

“There’s no capital outlay and the scheme helps landlords to protect the longevity of their investment by ensuring rentals are kept warm and dry.

“There are other social implications too, because creating a warm dry home means the health and wellbeing of their tenants is being looked after. This means they are likely to stay on longer, feel more invested in their home and help look after the property themselves.”

*See key findings table from the survey below

*This survey was conducted by Buzz Channel with participants sourced from buzzthepeople online research panel of more than 20,000 New Zealanders. We surveyed N=1040 respondents who were between the age of 18 and 74 years. The margin of error on this sample is +/- 3.6% at the 95% confidence level.


KEY FINDINGS FROM THE HRV STATE OF THE HOME SURVEY 2017

Renters vs landlords
• 66 per cent of renters said their landlord either didn’t respond, failed to fix a problem, or “kind of made some effort to remedy an issue”
• However, 75% of landlords said they fixed a problem their tenants had as soon as possible
• Fixing damage and doing repairs is the top priority for half of landlords
• Landlords placed little importance on heating and ventilation (9%) and addressing mould and dampness (4%)
• 24% said they thought their rental was not worth what they paid
• 90% of landlords said their relationship with tenants was good or excellent
• Renters had a less favourable view of their landlords with a quarter of renters contacting their landlord because their rental was cold, mouldy and damp
• 42% of renters would like their landlord to make their rental warmer, drier and healthier
Renters vs home owners
• 80% of renters would rather be living in a warmer, drier home compared to just half of homeowners
• 36% of renters have insulation compared to 73% of home owners and renters are less likely to have double glazing, a heat pump, or a ventilation system
• Renters were more likely to use as little heating as possible, and 50% of renters (compared to 35% overall) said the cost of their power bill was excessive in winter
• Rented homes are more likely to be cold (41% vs 29% among home owners)
• Renters are more likely than home owners to have mould with almost 60% of rental properties having mould around windows and in the bathroom
• 60% of renters said they wanted to move out of the home they live in (compared to a third of homeowners)
• 60% of renters would like to buy their first home but can’t afford to
Impact of cold, damp homes
• 38% try to reduce their winter power bill by using as little heating as possible
• Almost half said cold, dampness or condensation increase the cost of heating their home
• A quarter of households have invested in energy efficient products or energy saving devices to help reduce heating costs
• During winter, homes suffer the most from condensation (37%), followed by being damp and mouldy (34%), cold (33%), and draughty (33%)
• 36% agreed cold, dampness, mould and condensation worsens the health of adults living in the house. 37% said it ruins carpets, furnishings and curtains
• A fifth said cold and damp conditions were responsible for increasing medical costs and doctor’s visits
Current home vs ideal home
• 16% have moved out, or would have liked to have moved out of a home, in the last five years because it was cold
• Only 40% of Maori or Pasifika were home owners comparted to 68% Pakeha
• Almost three quarters would like to live in an energy efficient home with sustainable elements such as solar power and recyclable water
• Four in 10 people believe solar power is “the way of the future” but don’t have it installed at their homes
Sick home, sick days
• 79% of renters would rather be living in a warmer, drier, healthier home compared to 51% of home owners
• A fifth of Kiwis take more than five sick days a year
• 5% of the population – around 230,000 people – take more than 10 days off each year

• 7% of renters take more than 10 sick days a year

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