Renting a house
The rental market is very varied, with a range of landlords from ‘Mum and Dad’ operators to professional investors and managers.
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Fixed-term residential tenancy agreements are often short to medium term, and longer fixed-term contracts are relatively rare. Some landlords offer periodic tenancy agreements, which continue until either the tenant or landlord gives notice to end it.
Prices vary throughout the country, with higher prices in the main centres.
Tenancy Services within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) gives advice and guidance about all aspects of rental tenancies in New Zealand. This includes a guide to the law which is also available in Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Tagalog, Hindi, Samoan and Tongan. A simplified version is also available. Tenancy Services also offers a phone helpline for information, as well as a mediation service if you have a dispute over a rental agreement.
A tenancy agreement is a legal requirement for renting a property.
Where to look
You can find rental properties through letting agents such as real estate agents, or by contacting landlords directly. A popular privately operated website where you’ll find lots of rental properties advertised is TradeMe Property. Browsing around this website will give you an excellent overview of rents and the types of property available in the area you’re considering.
There’s high demand for good places, so it pays to make contact quickly.
In New Zealand, rent is advertised as a weekly price, rather than monthly.
As they do in every country, rents depend on the quality, location and size of the property. But to give you an indication, TradeMeProperty reported that across New Zealand, on their site in July 2015 the median rental being asked for a three-four bedroom home was NZ$460.
However there are wide variations. Auckland’s median was NZ$550 and for larger or more desirable homes, up to NZ$750.
Excluding Auckland, the national median dropped to NZ$395.
When you first rent a place you’ll need to pay some rent in advance as well as a letting fee if you use an agent (letting fees are normally one week’s rent plus GST). A landlord can ask for a maximum of two weeks’ rent in advance.
You’ll also need to pay a bond, which can be the same as up to four weeks’ rent. So you need to be prepared to pay up to the equivalent of six weeks' rent upfront.
You’ll get the bond payment refunded at the end of your tenancy, provided you leave the place in good condition. To help avoid hassles at the end of a tenancy, bonds are lodged with and held by Tenancy Services, not the landlord.
To find out more about market rent - what renters typically pay in specific areas - check the Tenancy Services website.
Insurance, council taxes and costs
If you’re renting, the landlord is responsible for insuring the building. Tenants are responsible for getting cover for their own possessions and liability for any damage they or their guests may cause to the property.
Taxes imposed by the local council (in New Zealand they’re called rates) are paid by the landlord. Day-to-day running costs like electricity or gas are paid by you, the tenant.
Some homes have water meters, in which case tenants must also pay for the water they use.
Sharing accommodation or 'flatting'
Sharing a house or ‘flatting’ is common in New Zealand, especially if you’re younger and don’t have a family.
Flatting has the advantages of moving in with people who know the local area, and reducing the need to buy furniture and appliances.
Another option for shared accommodation are boarding houses. They offer rooms with shared kitchens, bathrooms and living areas.
Boarding houses are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, but flatting arrangements aren’t. Disputes about flatting that can’t be resolved can be dealt with by the Disputes Tribunal.Disputes Tribunal
Cost of flatting
Nationally, landlords were seeking around NZ$153 for a room in a 3-4 bedroom home in July 2015. Flatting costs vary widely, depending on the desirability of the property and the room, and the location.
In some flats, everyone shares cooking duties and the costs of buying food. In others, everyone buys and prepares their own food. Other costs like electricity are shared. You should work out agreements about making payments, food, bills and notice periods before you move in. You may find it useful to have these agreements in writing and keep receipts for any payments you make.
Finding a flat
People looking for new flatmates - ‘flatties’ - usually advertise on TradeMe in the ‘Flatmates wanted’ section. Boarding house vacancies are also advertised there.
You’ll find advice about flat sharing agreements and other matters to consider when sharing accommodation on the Tenancy Services website.