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 rental contracts are often short to medium term and long term fixed contracts are relatively rare. Prices vary throughout the country, with higher prices in the main centres.
The Building and Housing Group 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, Samoan and Tongan. A simplified version is also available. MBIE also offers a mediation service if you have a dispute over a rental agreement.
A tenancy agreement is a legal requirement for renting a place.
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.
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.
In New Zealand, rent is advertised as a weekly price, rather than monthly.
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 two weeks’ rent in advance.
You’ll also need to put up a bond, usually equivalent of up to four weeks’ rent. So you need to be prepared to have to pay up to six weeks 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 held by MBIE, not the landlord.
To get a feel for what renters have been paying in the specific areas you’re looking at check the Building and Housing 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 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. Work out agreements about making payments, food and bills before you move in.
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 MBIE Building and Housing website.