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Educating the tenant: the dos and don'ts of keeping a home warm and healthy

By : 2017-10-11

Warm, dry, healthy homes are a trending topic as Labour’s Healthy Homes Bill awaits its passage through parliament. The new legislation will require landlords to provide healthy homes for tenants, but the landlord’s work doesn’t stop there.

David Kneebone, General Manager of Lodge City Rentals, gives his tips on educating tenants on home maintenance, for mutually beneficial outcomes.

Last week I read an article that piqued my interest. An Auckland landlord, who rented out his own home after living in it for a number of years, had run into some problems.

His tenants of six months, who moved in as soon as he moved out, had lodged a complaint that his property was cold, drafty and damp.

As it turned out, despite the landlord buying a heat pump for the house, the tenants weren’t using it because they ‘couldn’t afford it’ and condensation was dripping down the windows because they never opened them. You can imagine my condemnation.

A lot of reporting lately has placed emphasis and responsibility on landlords to provide healthy warm homes, often at considerable expense, but the problem can sometimes lie with tenants who don’t know how to live in a house properly.

The article reminded me of a similar case, where tenants complained of mould on the bathroom ceiling, but weren’t using the extractor fan or the window in the bathroom. One spray of exit mould and the ceiling was back to new!

But dampness, mould and mildew can be a big problem for rental homes, particularly for homes in Hamilton which is renowned for having very damp, wet winters. And it’s not uncommon for disputes to arise between landlords and tenants. But who is responsible for what?

Landlords: It’s your responsibility to provide a warm home

DO

  • Use radiators in bedrooms
  • Hang thick curtains
  • Use extractor fansthat vent to the outside.  These are good to have in wet areas of the home, such as the bathroom and kitchen, to help remove damp air. Bathroom extractor fans are often connected to the light switch so they come on automatically and go off 10 minutes after the light is turned o
  • Use dryers vented to the outside. They reduce the amount of moisture released inside the house
  • Consider using chanical ventilation systems that source air from the outside. These are a good option if tenants are out all day, and/or if the property is near a source of noise such as a busy road or airport. Some systems come with heat exchange units, which transfers the bulk of the heat from the outgoing air into the fresh air coming from the outside.
  • Insulate your house. Grants are available so shop around. Our property managers can also advise you on this.
  • Install a heat pump. These come in different sizes but have them placed on the most appropriate wall of the house to get maximum benefit from them.

DON’T

  • Use unflued gas heaters. They release moisture and pollutants into the indoor air during combustion. As a landlord, you can choose to ban the use of portable LPG cabinet heaters in the tenancy agreement.

Tenants: It’s your responsibility to keep the house warm and dry

DO

  • Ventilate your home. The simplest way to ventilate your home, even in winter, is to open the doors and windows regularly to allow fresh air in. Good ventilation is important for maintaining healthy indoor air and reducing the amount of moisture in your home. This in turn will make it easier to heat.
  • Open your curtains during the day and close them at night. Your windows let in heat during the day. Closing the curtains before sunset keeps the heat in, and the cold out.
  • Prevent cold air getting in by stopping draughts around doors, windows and fireplaces.This will make it easier and more cost-efficient to heat your home.
  • Open windows in the kitchen when you cook. And in the bathroom when you shower or take a bath, to let out steam. Extractor fans also let out steam, so if you have one in your kitchen or bathroom, this is a good time to use it.
  • Wipe off any water that has collected on walls and on the inside of windows. Condensation makes your rooms feel damp and dampness can cause mould to grow.
  •     Dry your washing outside or in the garage or carport.Wet washing can make your home damp. As the washing dries, the water goes back into the air, causing condensation to build up. Hang your washing outside to dry, then bring it in and hang it over the radiator or heated towel rail in the bathroom for a final burst of heat.

Warm and healthy homes are good for landlords too

Providing warm and health homes for tenants looks set to become law, but there are benefits for landlords too. Tenants are likely to stay longer in a rental property that’s warm and cheap to heat. This reduces the costs of high tenant turnover.

Tenants in a damp or cold home are more likely to suffer avoidable illness, often resulting in unplanned medical bills and time off work. Unexpected financial burdens like this may increase the risk of missed rent payments.

A rental property that is well-insulated and has energy-efficient heating and appliances is easier to market and can attract a higher rent. But remember to run through the checklist with your tenant on how to live in a house properly.

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