Findings from the BRANZ nationwide Housing Condition Survey show differences between rental and owner-occupied dwellings but also that, in many cases, both types of occupiers think their property is better than it is.
BRANZ House Condition Surveys have been carried out every 5 years since 1994, providing snapshots of New Zealand’s housing stock. While previous surveys were centred on the three main centres, the 2010 House Condition Survey was nationwide and included a representative selection of rental properties, which make up approximately 33% of the total housing stock.
Subjective condition assessment
Approximately 500 stand-alone, townhouse or terraced houses and units were inspected throughout New Zealand, and interviews completed with each occupant on their family circumstances and maintenance practices.
The assessors used a subjective overall condition assessment for each dwelling based on a three-point scale. More importance was given to critical components that may have more serious long-term effects, such as a leaking roof, than components with no detrimental effects to the structure, for example, a broken kitchen bench.
Rentals in poorer condition
The survey found that rental houses were generally in worse condition overall than owner-occupied houses and had a higher incidence of components in poor or serious condition. Owner-occupied houses were nearly twice as likely to be in good condition as rented houses (see Figure 1). Nearly twice as many rented houses were in poor condition compared to owner-occupied houses.
Occupiers overly optimistic
A disparity between the actual condition of the house and the occupant-perceived condition (see Figure 2) was also found. For both rental and owner-occupied properties, the householder perceived the condition of the property to be significantly better than the BRANZ assessors did.
Owner-occupiers tend to be overly optimistic about the condition of their homes. Over 70% believe their home is in good or excellent condition while BRANZ assessors put 42% into this category. This disparity may be influenced by a focus on cosmetic appearance, which aligns with the condition of the interior tending to be slightly higher than the exterior – less visible areas are considered to be less important.
In rental properties, approximately 80% of occupants considered the property in good condition, and only 2% believed their home to be in poor condition. This is a remarkable contrast to the BRANZ surveyors, who considered that only 22% of rental properties were in good condition and 44% in poor condition. This suggests renting households are more optimistic about the condition of the home they are in and have lower expectations of the condition of the home, particularly as the upkeep of the home is usually not the tenant’s responsibility.
Main rental issues
The average condition of houses varied depending on when they were built and the type of tenure. Rentals as a whole have lower average condition ratings than owner-occupied houses:
- More rentals had exterior and envelope components in poor or serious condition.
- Windows and roof claddings were far more likely to be in poor or serious condition in rentals.
- Rentals were nearly twice as likely to have foundations in poor to serious condition as owner-occupied houses.
- Rentals were more likely to have interior components in poor condition – kitchen, bathroom and laundry linings and fittings were all in worse condition in rentals.
- Two-thirds of rented houses had hot water cylinders in poor or serious condition, although often this is missing seismic restraints.
Insulation, heating and mould
The trends with insulation levels were not as conclusive. A slightly higher proportion of rentals than owner-occupied houses had full ceiling and floor insulation and more had ceiling insulation over 100 mm thick. This may reflect take up of EECA’s Warm Up New Zealand scheme for rental properties. However, a higher proportion of rentals had no ceiling or floor insulation, while more owner-occupied houses had partial ceiling or floor insulation. It appeared 80% of rental houses had no wall insulation compared with 45% of owner-occupied houses, although this is hard to assess.
Renting households were more likely to use portable heating, such as electric plug-in and LPG, than fixed heating, such as solid fuel, heat pumps or gas heaters. A quarter of renting households had unflued gas heaters compared with 17% of owner-occupied households.
A higher proportion of rental houses had dampness and mould issues compared to owner-occupied. Nearly three-quarters of rental houses had some mould within the home, compared with just over half of the owner-occupied houses. Mould also tended to be more prevalent in rental properties and at moderate or high levels.
Renters tend to be younger
The characteristics of households differed markedly between the two types of tenure. Once weighted to take into account of location and tenure, the household age profile of the House Condition Survey sample was consistent with the New Zealand Census data showing that around half of all New Zealand’s children under 5 years of age live in rental houses, despite rentals representing only a third of the housing stock. Renting households were also less likely to include people over 65 years of age.
Not entirely unexpected, renting households tended to have lower combined incomes than owner-occupier households and more members per household. However, a higher proportion of renting households consisted of a single member. Renting households also moved more frequently than owner-occupier households and were more likely to be anticipating a move within the next 12 months.
Free downloads of study reports with analysis of the House Condition Survey can be found in the BRANZ Shop on www.branz.co.nz.
The BRANZ House Condition Survey was jointly funded by the Building Research Levy, the Centre for Research Evaluation and Social Assessment and the Department of Building and Housing.
Articles are correct at the time of publication but may have since become outdated.