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Healthy Homes Standards may impact farmhouses & worker accommodation

Where a person lives can have a huge impact on their health, happiness and productivity. This can be crucial when it comes to accommodation, specifically for workers. As a landlord, it makes sense to provide warm, dry and safe accommodation for staff, especially if you're also their employer.

You are considered a landlord if you have one or several houses on your farm or business headquarters that are rented by staff or private tenants. 'Renting' can include payment in kind, so even if you don't take a rent payment directly from them you can still be classed as a landlord.

So what are your legal tenancy requirements? As a landlord, you have certain obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act and the Housing Improvement Regulations Act, summarised by The purpose of the Housing Improvement Regulations is to ensure properties are warm, dry, safe, and sanitary.

New Zealand’s weather can be unpredictable, so it is not uncommon to feel like you are experiencing four seasons in one day. This can be extremely challenging for those workers from overseas who may be use to warmer climates and more predictable weather conditions. This could dramatically affect their wellness as their bodies start to get familiar with our climate. Because of this, it may also pay to note that overseas workers may not be eligible for publicly funded health services in New Zealand if they are on certain temporary visa categories. To see if a worker is eligible you can visit the Ministry of Health website. Therefore having warm and safe accommodation can have a huge impact on their overall wellness.

Living requirements for staff accommodation need to abide by the healthy homes standards. In an outline these include:

Insulation requirements

Ceiling insulation needs to be at least 120mm thick and underfloor insulation needs a minimum R-value of 1.3. Learn more about what this means on Tenancy Services' website.

Minimum heating requirements

Tenancy Services has specified that every rental must have a fixed heater that can directly heat the main living room to a maintained temperature of at least 18˚C all year round. Using a heating device that is inefficient or unaffordable in a large room won't make the grade so ensure you're fitting the correct heater for the size of the room and that drafts or leaks don't enable the heat to escape.

Ventilation requirements

Ventilation standards require that all rental properties must have windows that open to the outside in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. Kitchens and bathrooms must also have extractor fans.

Moisture ingress and drainage standards

Rental properties require efficient drainage for the removal of stormwater, surface water and groundwater. Rental properties with an enclosed sub-floor space must have a ground moisture barrier. 

Drought stopping standards

The draught stopping standard states there must be no unreasonable gaps or holes in walls, ceilings, windows, skylights, floors and doors which will cause noticeable draughts. All unused open fireplaces must be closed off or their chimneys must be blocked to prevent draughts.

How Healthy Homes Standards
can affect your business

Apart from the healthy homes standards, there are also requirements around overcrowding of staff accommodation. The Housing Improvement Regulations 1947, which are managed by territorial authorities, govern accommodation overcrowding. They state three people can only share a room if it is 14sqm or larger.

To be classed as accommodation, units must also be able to provide a room that can be used as a kitchen or kitchenette with a sink and tap connected to useable water, a bathroom with a shower or bath and running hot water, a toilet (inside or outside the property) for the exclusive use of those that live in the property, provision for the washing of clothes (if the house is intended for the use of 2 people or more).

So how can this affect your business? Not only do poor living conditions affect work productivity due to the increased risk of seasonal colds and sickness but the government now has strict rules, which if not followed, can result in a substantial fine. These fines are subject to the regulations and the deadlines that come with them.

The level of accommodation you provide to your workers will also depend on the quality of staff you want to employ. Good quality farm accommodation is more likely to attract quality job applicants and employees. It is also likely to help you retain these employees for a longer period of time.

If your existing accommodation is going to be costing you a large amount of money to get it up to standard then there are some alternatives you can consider. A new prefab home could be a more affordable option in the long term and the answer to your problems. Prefab homes can be designed and built predominately for accommodation or as farm homes. Learn more about how a prefab home can help make you more money for your farm

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