New HRV state of home survey shows renters left in the cold - 20/07/2016

Mould is prevalent in almost half of all rented homes, and renters take more sick days than the national average.

Those are two key findings from a new survey that aims to gain an insight on the way we live and cope with winter chills.

The HRV State of Home Survey of 1450 people, conducted by Buzz Channel in collaboration with Charles Crothers, Professor of Sociology at AUT, also found that 56 per cent of landlords refused to do anything about poor insulation when contacted by tenants.

Crothers says the survey showed damp mouldy accommodation is widespread, but it is tenants and families living in sub-standard rental accommodation who are worse off.

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"It's well known that New Zealand homes aren't especially good at helping us to stay warm and dry but we now find ourselves in a renters-versus-the rest situation. Those who are renting are more likely to suffer a lot, with a quarter suffering from a cold home and 20 per cent living in houses that are difficult to heat." 

The effects of sub-standard housing can be major, says Professor Crothers, with one in five moving out of a house because of factors such as dampness or mould. 

"For renters that statistic is even higher with almost a third moving out of a home because it was damp, cold or mouldy – or all of those things."


The survey found while homeowners more readily turn on the heater or heat pump to stay warm (67 per cent) the methods of coping with cold, damp and mouldy homes are wide ranging.

Renters resort to less expensive ways of heating their homes with hot water bottles (29 per cent) a popular alternative to turning on a heater to stay warm when watching TV at night. Other ways renters keep warm include sipping a hot drink (53 per cent), wrapping up in a blanket or duvet (79 per cent) and wearing warm socks (72 per cent).   

Renters' comments included: "We had to replace our bedroom carpet because of black mould as the landlord didn't care. Since then our new carpet has turned mouldy."

"Our power bill gets up to $1000 a month in winter and its only 100 square metres. There's no insulation so the heat is basically going straight outside."

HRV CEO Bruce Gordon says the survey showed increasing awareness about the combination of insulation, heating, and ventilation is seen as being the key to creating a warm, dry home.

"It used to be insulation and some sort of heating source that people were focused on, but now insulation, heating, and ventilation go hand in hand, and increasingly double glazing is becoming a high priority for people.

The survey showed that respondents think having insulation, double glazing, a heat pump and ventilation is more important than a good school zone.

"People are not settling for anything less these days than a warm, dry, and healthy home," says Gordon. "It's what people want and expect – and it shouldn't matter if you rent or own your home." 

He says the plight of renters is worrying and changes proposed in the Healthy Home Guarantees Bill will help to improve the standard of rental properties.

Other key findings include:

* 39 per cent of renters have contacted their landlord because their house was cold, damp or mouldy.
* Nearly a quarter of landlords contacted by tenants discussed the issue but did nothing.
* A further 32 per cent of landlords contacted by tenants either did not respond or said the house was fine.
* Renters take an average of 3.6 sick days compared with homeowners who have an average of three.
* 40 per cent of renters would like their landlord to make their property healthier.
* 35 per cent of landlords mainly focus their attention on damage repairs, with only 11 per cent focusing on mould and dampness.
* 20 per cent of landlords spend less than $1000 a year on maintenance.