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How Do I Meet the Healthy Homes Standards in a Body Corporate?
Ensuring your investment property complies with the upcoming Healthy Homes Standards may be particularly challenging for unit titled properties. Inevitably, your body corporate will become involved in the process. We discuss areas where you may run into complications, the correct procedures to follow and possible exemptions in this article.
Healthy Homes Standards
The Healthy Homes Standards for rental properties were announced in March 2019. The Standards cover ventilation, insulation, heating, draught stopping and moisture and drainage. Crockers supports these changes, which are targeted at areas expected to make a big difference to the comfort and health of occupants.
What Changes Have Come into Effect Already?
Some of the changes have already come into effect. Since 2016 all new Tenancy Agreements have had to include a separate, signed insulation statement. Since 1 July 2019, insulation has needed to comply with the Standards and tenancy agreements have been required to include a statement to the effect that compliance has been achieved. A separate, signed ‘Intent To Comply With The Healthy Homes Standards’ statement has been required with all new Tenancy Agreements, stating either compliance or the intention to comply.
What Are the Next Deadlines?
There are two key deadlines coming up. By 1 December 2020, all new or renewing tenancy agreements will need to be accompanied with a full compliance statement, setting out how the property performs in respect of each of the five new compliance standards. By 1 July 2021, the property must comply with those requirements for all new or renewing tenancies. If the landlord is relying on any of the very specific exemptions that do exist, this has to be included in the statement.
Challenges For Multi-Unit Dwellings
Achieving compliance, however, may be more difficult if your rental property is within a multi-unit dwelling. Retrofitting heat pumps to meet the heating standards is an example of one area that may prove challenging.
Firstly, you will need to consider the placement of an outdoor unit. Even if a property has a balcony, it’s likely you’ll need the body corporate’s permission to install a unit on it. You’ll also need to consider drainage issues and the need for penetrations in the cladding, which could compromise the weathertightness of the building.
If you do not have a balcony there are few options for installing a heat pump, as it could be very difficult to retrofit the piping to use another external space.
Although a heat pump is often the ideal solution for meeting heating standards, it is not the only one. If exemptions apply that mean a heat pump cannot be installed, the heating standard could be achieved by having an electric heating device other than a heat pump. This would need to be bigger than 1.5KW but not more than 2.4kw, and it would have to be fixed or attached to the room in some way.
Exemptions to the Healthy Homes Standards
Exemptions are available for landlords who don’t own all or part of the building that is necessary to achieve compliance with the Standards. However, this doesn’t mean landlords can opt out of the Standards. You will need to show that you have used ‘reasonable endeavours’ to comply.
What Are Considered Reasonable Steps to Comply?
Landlords must be able to show they have taken all reasonable steps to ensure their property complies with the standards, including:
- Where access or permission is required, formally seeking this
- Following correct formal processes where work needs to be done
- Not withholding votes or funding necessary to achieve compliance
- Complying as best as reasonably practicable with the requirement, based on the advice of a suitably qualified professional.
Where owners have sought approval from the body corporate but the body corporate won’t allow penetrations or heat pump units to be installed on the exterior of the building, the body corporate must provide a document to all owners confirming such work is against the building rules.
Exemptions are specifically available for meeting insulation standards where there is a habitable space above or below the rental property, and ventilation standards subject to ‘reasonable endeavours’ having been applied. You may also be exempt if meeting the standards is ‘reasonably impracticable’. Be aware, you can’t just assume that an exemption applies – evidence that you have sought advice from a suitably qualified professional will be required if you seek to rely on an exemption. Detailed information on specific exemptions is available here.
Will Your Case Hold Up at the Tenancy Tribunal?
At the end of the day, whether exemptions are allowed may come down to what the Tenancy Tribunal considers ‘reasonable’ in your particular case. Having written advice from suitably qualified professionals, being able to show you have acted reasonably and proving you have consulted with your body corporate will be key in these circumstances. We cover the consequences of not complying in this article.
Tips, Tricks and Assistance
Here are Crockers’ top tips for achieving compliance:
- Document everything
- We highly recommend that you get your rental property professionally assessed
- If you choose not to get a professional healthy homes assessment, record your basis of assessment of compliance against the Standards in detail and in writing
- Get all professional advice in writing and retain copies
- Keep receipts for all work completed.
We Can Help!
Better still, hire the experts in everything property, Crockers. Our experienced property management team can ensure you are on track with meeting all the Standards and step in if things start to get complicated. Contact Crockers Property Management for special offers for Crockers’ Body Corporate Management clients on firstname.lastname@example.org.