15 September 2014
Renters left out in the cold
People living in rental accommodation are suffering from a lower level of health and wellbeing because of substandard
conditions in their home, new research shows.
And homeowners who are struggling to pay off their mortgage are not much better off.
The State of the Home Survey, conducted by independent research company Buzz Channel, shows that renters especially are putting up with homes that
are cold, less comfortable and continually mouldy due to condensation and dampness. They are significantly more likely
to have mould “everywhere” in their house, with almost half reporting it in the bathroom, and a third living with mould
and mildew on curtains and walls.
Results from the survey show renters and homeowners with a mortgage are similar when it comes to the impact the
condition of their home has on their health, with a prevalence of persistent coughs, runny noses, sore and irritated
throats, and red itchy eyes.
As a consequence those who rent and have a mortgage take double the number of sick days as those who own their own home
The drive behind the survey commissioned by HRV is to shed light on the poor state of New Zealand’s housing stock and
increase awareness around creating healthy homes.
Other key findings include:
• 50 per cent of renters and a third of those with a mortgage said the condition of their home worsened the occupants
• 37 per cent of renters and 28 per cent of home owners with mortgage suffer wheezing and coughing compared to 15 per
cent of home owners with no mortgage
• The financial costs of living in a mouldy, damp home are significant. Renters and those who have a mortgage are
significantly more likely to suffer damage to carpet, walls, furnishings, clothes and shoes than those who are mortgage
• Almost 60 per cent of all people surveyed said that living in substandard conditions adds to the level of stress in
The survey also gauged New Zealander’s reactions to the prospect of a housing warrant of fitness being introduced in
light of the council-led rental WOF and the government’s state housing WOF trials conducted earlier this year.
Nearly two thirds (63%) of those surveyed said they would be happy for their home to undergo a warrant of fitness check.
“It would tell me if the house is healthy [and] what needs to be done to it to make it healthy,” said one survey
However, 40 per cent of renters were wary of the WOF proposal for reasons ranging from fear of their landlord putting
the rent up to not wanting to “annoy the owners”.
HRV chief executive Bruce Gordon said renters and those battling to pay a mortgage get a raw deal when it comes to the
state of the houses they live in and the resulting health and financial impacts that has on them.
“These people are essentially at the mercy of their home, and with insulation, ventilation and decent heating this can
be addressed” he said.
Support for a warrant of fitness scheme is echoed by a number of political parties, with Labour, the Greens and the
Maori Party promising to implement a rental housing WOF.
“People have told us that they are sick of being sick and that a warrant of fitness would tell them what needs to be
done to make their home healthy, which is why we are eager to see this system put in place,” said Mr Gordon.
HRV sought specifics of the recent government trial of the WOF via an Official Information Act request but it was
refused because it was still under consideration by Ministers.
“Meanwhile, people are still suffering. It’s not good enough,” said Mr Gordon
* Buzz Channel surveyed 505 people aged between 24 and 75 years. The margin of error on this sample is +/- 4.3% at the
95% confidence level.