Farm Tenancies, Landlord Responsibilities and Healthy Homes

18 November 2020

Farm owners providing accommodation to employees must comply with the Residential Tenancies Act 1986.  If you’re a farmer and a landlord you’d be forgiven for feeling the latest changes to the Residential Tenancies Act might seem daunting.  Changes came into force in July 2019 and August 2020 and more changes are due in 2021.  Here we take the opportunity to breakdown some of the most important requirements on landlords that are currently in place.

  1. You must provide the premises in a reasonable state of cleanliness
  2. You must ensure smoke alarms are installed in the property
  3. You must comply with the Healthy Homes Standards.

The Healthy Home Standards are complex. They set out minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture, drainage and draughts. Points to note:

1. Qualifying heaters

The main living room in any dwelling must have one or more “qualifying heaters”. Qualifying heaters are to be installed as a fixture to the property and are either a heat pump in the living room, a heater that supplies heat directly into the living room (through a duct or vent) or an electric heater fixed to the property. Qualifying heaters need to have a thermostat and a heating capacity of 1.5 kW. An open fire, an unflued combustion heater or an electric heater (where the heating capacity for the living room is greater than 2.4kw) are not qualifying heaters.

2. Insulation

Ceiling and underfloor insulation (for suspended floors) must be installed where there is a living space immediately above the ceiling or below the floor (like in an apartment or two storied building)

3. Windows and doors

Each living space must have at least one or more windows or doors that open outside and can be fixed in the open position

4. Extraction fans

All kitchens and bathrooms must have an extraction fan vented outside unless at the date of commencement of the tenancy the room does not have an extractor fan, it is not reasonably practical to install one, or the room does not require one because it lawfully meets alternative ventilation requirements

5. Open fireplaces

Open fireplaces must be closed off to prevent draughts (unless the tenant asks for the fireplace to be used).

6. Drainage

Buildings must efficiently drain storm water, surface water, ground water and appropriately remove any water from the roof.

Although there are some situations where these requirements won’t apply, normally a tenanted home on the farm will need to comply with the rules.

Information regarding the Healthy Homes requirements above are to be included in Tenancy Agreements.

Where to from here

Landlords would be well advised to review their tenancy agreements and the state of their properties to ensure they are compliant with the new rules. When you’re busy on the farm and don’t have the time, inclination or the expertise to do this job properly, taking good professional advice is the best way to go.

Barbara McDermott is part of our Private Client team at Norris Ward McKinnon.