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. 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 tenancy law. The guide is available in English, 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 by contacting landlords directly, or through a letting agent (for example, a real estate agent). Letting agents act as agents for landlords when granting or assigning a tenancy.
A popular privately operated website where you will 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 are considering.
There is high demand for good places, so it pays to make contact quickly.
Rents and other payments
It's really important for tenants to pay their rent on time. Even if there is a problem with the property or the landlord isn't doing what they should, you must continue to pay rent.
However, if you get behind, landlords still have to meet their responsibilities for maintenance, and they must follow the correct process to end a tenancy.
When there are multiple tenants, all are responsible for any overdue rent even if only one tenant isn't paying as they should.
If someone else lives in the house but is not named on the tenancy agreement then they are likely to be a flatmate. The law considers a flatmate is responsible to pay rent to the named tenant, not the landlord.
In New Zealand, rent is advertised as a weekly price, rather than monthly.
As in every country, rents depend on the quality, location and size of the property.
In August 2018, TradeMeProperty reported that the national median weekly rent for a small house (1-2 bedrooms) was NZ$390 a week, and NZ$525 for 2-4 bedrooms.
However, there are wide variations. Auckland’s median for 3-4 bedrooms was NZ$600, and up to NZ$850 for larger or more desirable homes. Excluding Auckland, the national median for 3-4 bedrooms was NZ$460.
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 need time to make a decision on whether or not to rent a property, your landlord may ask you for an 'option fee' to hold the property while you decide. This may not be more than 1 week's rent. If you agree to rent, your landlord must give you back the fee or put it towards your rent.
Letting fees and key money
As of 12 December 2018:
- landlords and their agents (eg real estate agents, solicitors) cannot charge you a fee ('letting fee') for granting you a tenancy
- landlords cannot charge you 'key money' (money other than rent or bond) for granting or making changes to a tenancy.
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 are 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 (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 are younger and do not have a family.
Flatting has the advantages of living 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 are not. Disputes about flatting that cannot 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 to 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 (or ‘flatties’) usually advertise on TradeMe in the ‘Flatmates wanted’ section. Boarding house vacancies are also advertised there.
You will find advice about flat sharing agreements and other matters to consider when sharing accommodation on the Tenancy Services website.
How to fix a problem (or disputes)
If you have a problem, 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 and responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant so you both know what you should be doing. You can find this information at tenancy.govt.nz and in the Renting and You booklet, which is available in 15 languages.
Communication is key
- Express your views clearly and listen to what the other person has to stay.
- Try to understand the other person's point of view and make sure you understand their concerns.
- Have an idea of what you want to achieve, and be prepared to compromise if you need to.
- Make sure you're realistic in what you want to get out of the conversation.
If you reach an agreement
- Write down what you've agreed and then sign and date it.
- You might arrange to meet again to check how things are going.
If that doesn't work, you can send a notice to remedy, which is a letter making a formal request to the landlord. There's a template for this at tenancy.govt.nz.
If that still doesn't solve the problem, Tenancy Services offers Fast Track Resolution, mediation or you can apply for a hearing at the Tenancy Tribunal.
There's more information about the disputes process on their site.
Ending a tenancy
If you want to end your tenancy, both tenants and landlords must give the right notice. The notice requirements depend on the type of tenancy agreement you have.
Fixed term tenancy (e.g. 12 months) - you can't give notice to end a fixed term early. However, if it's between 21 and 90 days before the end of the fixed term, a landlord can give notice to say they don't want to continue the tenancy after the date.
Periodic tenancy (no fixed end date) - you must give at least 21 days' written notice to end the tenancy, unless the landlord agrees to a shorter time. A landlord must give at least 90 days' notice. A notice to end a tenancy must:
- be in writing
- give the address of a tenancy
- give the date of when the tenancy will end
- be signed by the person giving the notice
This covers the main situations but there are some exceptions. There is more information at Tenancy Services with an easy-to-use tool to help you reach the right outcome for your situation.
From 1 July 2019, all rental homes must have insulation in the ceiling and under the floor that meets the required standards. This is the landlord's responsibility. For more information about the new changes, check the Tenancy Services website for more information.