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Renting a house
New Zealand’s rental market is varied, with different types of housing and a range of pricing.
Prices vary throughout the country, with higher prices in the main centres.
Finding a rental
In New Zealand, rent is advertised as a weekly price, rather than monthly.
You can find rental properties by contacting landlords directly or you can go through a letting agent, for example a real estate agent. Letting agents act as agents for landlords when granting or assigning a tenancy.
You can also check websites like TradeMe Property - a popular privately operated website with lots of rental properties advertised. This will give you an overview of rents and the types of rental properties available in the area you are considering.
There is high demand for good places, so it pays to make contact quickly.
It is important that you pay your rent on time. Even if there is a problem with the property or the landlord is not doing what they should, you must continue to pay rent.
If you get behind in rent
If you do get behind in rent, landlords still have to meet their responsibilities for maintenance and they must follow the correct process to end a tenancy.
If you are living with other tenants you are all responsible for paying any overdue rent, even if only one tenant is not paying as they should.
If you are living with people who are not named on the tenancy agreement, then they are classed as ‘flatmates’. The tenant named on the agreement is responsible for paying the full rent to the landlord. The flatmates must pay their share to the named tenant so they can pass it on to the landlord.
Advance rent and bonds
When you first rent a property, you may need to pay rent in advance and a bond. This could bring your total first payment to 5 or 6 weeks' rent.
Landlords can only ask for 1 or 2 weeks' rent in advance, depending on whether you will pay rent weekly or fortnightly (every 2 weeks).
A bond can be up to 4 weeks' rent. Landlords must give you a receipt for your bond money and lodge it with Tenancy Services within 23 days. Tenancy Services will hold your bond money until your tenancy ends. You will get your bond back if you leave the property in good condition.
If you are not sure whether or not to rent a property, the landlord may ask you for an 'option fee' to hold the property while you decide.
The fee cannot be more than 1 week's rent.
If you agree to rent, your landlord must give you back the option fee or put it towards your rent.
Letting fees and key money
Landlords and their agents (eg real estate agents, solicitors) cannot charge you fees (money other than rent or bond) for granting you a tenancy or making changes to a tenancy. These fees are called letting fees and key money.
If you are renting, the landlord is responsible for insuring the building and paying local council taxes (rates).
Tenants are responsible for:
insuring their personal possessions
paying for any damage that they or their guests cause to the property
paying for daily running costs, like electricity or gas (and water if the house has a water metre).
Sharing accommodation or 'flatting'
Sharing a house with 1 or more friends, workmates or strangers is called ‘flatting’. Flatting is common in New Zealand and often suits younger people. The people you live with are called ‘flatmates’ (or ‘flatties’).
The good thing about flatting is you can live with people who know the local area and you do not have to buy all the furniture and appliances yourself.
People looking for flatmates usually advertise on TradeMe in the ‘Flatmates wanted’ section.
When you go flatting, you are really renting a room. The cost of a room can vary widely. It depends on the type of property, the size of the room on offer and the location.
You will also need to pay for things like power and food. In some flats, everyone shares the cooking and the costs of buying food. In others, everyone buys and prepares their own food. The cost of things like electricity is shared between the flatmates.
If you move into a flat, you should work out agreements about paying for rent, food, electricity bills and notice periods before you move in. You may find it useful to have these agreements in writing and to keep receipts for any payments you make.
You will find advice about flat sharing agreements and other matters to consider when sharing accommodation on the Tenancy Services website.
Landlords must make sure all rental homes have insulation in the ceiling and under the floor, where it is reasonably practicable to install. Insulation must meet the required standards. The Tenancy Services website has more information.
If you have a problem with your rental, like a water leak or a broken lock, the best way to sort it out is by talking to the landlord first.
Make sure you learn about the rights and responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant so you both know what you should be doing. You can find this information on the Tenancy Services website and in the ‘Renting and you’ booklet (in 15 languages).
Talking to your landlord
Good communication is important.
Have a realistic idea of what you want to achieve.
Be prepared to make small changes if you need to so you can both reach an agreement.
Express your views clearly.
Listen to what the other person has to say.
Try to understand their point of view and make sure you understand their concerns.
If you reach an agreement:
write down what you have both agreed, then sign and date it
arrange to meet again to check how things are going.
If you cannot reach agreement
If you are unable to reach an agreement, you can send a Notice to Remedy to your landlord. This is a letter making a formal request to the landlord. You can find a template on the Tenancy Services website.
If a formal request does not solve the problem, Tenancy Services offers Fast Track Resolution or mediation. Or you can apply for a hearing at the Tenancy Tribunal.
Find more information about disputes on the Tenancy Services website.
If your tenancy has no fixed end date (a periodic tenancy) you or your landlord must ‘give notice’ to end it. This means letting each other know in advance that you want to end the tenancy. If:
you want to end the tenancy, you must give your landlord at least 21 days' notice (unless they agree to a shorter time)
your landlord wants to end the tenancy, they must give you at least 90 days' notice (42 days in some special situations.)
A notice to end a tenancy must:
be in writing
include the address of the tenancy and the date it will end
be signed by the person giving the notice.
Fixed term tenancies
If you have a fixed term tenancy, giving notice is not an option. However, there are ways to end it early.
You and your landlord can agree in writing to end a fixed term tenancy early. Your landlord may charge you a fee if you want to end it early, for example to cover actual and reasonable costs like advertising for new tenants.
You may be able to sublet the property or assign the tenancy to someone else.
If the tenancy is for longer than 90 days it will automatically become a periodic tenancy at the end of 90 days and then either of you can give notice to end it. (If you or your landlord do not want the fixed term to become a periodic tenancy, you or your landlord must give notice between 90 and 21 days before it ends.)
You can find more information on the Tenancy Services website. There is an easy-to-use tool to help you reach the right outcome for your situation.
Tenancy Services is the government’s advisor on all aspects of rental tenancies in New Zealand. Tenancy Services sits within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
Tenancy Services’ produces a guide to tenancy law for landlords and tenants called Renting and you. There is also a simplified version called Short guide to good renting. Both guides are available in English and other languages.
Tenancy Services also offers:
a phone helpline for information, and
a mediation service if you have a dispute over a rental agreement.