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Published in July 2013
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978-0-478-41377-9 (print)
ISBN: 978-0-478-41378-6 (web)

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Renting and you – a guide to the law about renting

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About this guide

This guide provides an overview of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 outlining important rights and responsibilities for landlords and tenants including those in boarding houses.

Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2010

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 is the principal Act relating to residential tenancies and defines the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants of residential properties.

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2010 has made some important changes including updating and clarifying the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, and extending the Act’s coverage to include boarding house landlords and tenants. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment administers the Act.

A copy of the Residential Tenancies Act can be read online at www.legislation.govt.nz Link to the Legislation website. .

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment provides advice, information and education services to help you avoid problems and to resolve disputes if they do arise. We also provide a mediation service and access to the Tenancy Tribunal.

Our website offers quick access to further renting information and all the tenancy forms you will need. This includes bond lodgement forms, tenancy agreements and sample letters to the landlord or tenant.

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Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2010

In 2010, the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 was amended. This section outlines some of the important changes included in the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2010 and what these changes mean for landlords and tenants.

Real estate agents and property managers are referred to as letting agents. All letting agents can now charge a letting fee.

Landlords and tenants must always provide a physical street address as an address for service, but can now add an email address, PO Box number or a fax number as an alternate address for service.

If a landlord is going to be absent from New Zealand for more than 21 consecutive days, they must appoint a New Zealand based agent, and notify their tenant and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (if a bond is held)of the agent’s details.

A ‘10 working days’ notice (a notice to remedy a breach of the tenancy) will change to a ‘14 days notice’. This means the other party now has 14 consecutive days to fix the problem.

A fixed-term tenancy reverts to a periodic tenancy on the date the fixed-term tenancy ends, unless either the landlord or the tenant gives notice to the contrary between 21 and 90 days before the fixed-term tenancy expires. If there is a right in the tenancy agreement to renew or extend the tenancy and the tenant wishes to renew or extend the tenancy, the tenant must write to the landlord advising them at least 21 days before the tenancy is due to end.

Tenancy agreements on unit title properties are now subject to body corporate rules.

New rules have been added for termination of a tenancy by notice:

  • 42 days notice, can be given if the owner of the premises or a member of the owner’s family requires the premises as their principal place of residence
  • in the case of the tenant being given less than 90 days’ notice, the notice to terminate must set out the reasons for the termination.

New rules have been added for landlords dealing with abandoned goods. Refer to page 23 for more information.

A number of unlawful acts have been added including:

  • the tenant failing to quit the premises at the end of the tenancy, without reasonable excuse
  • the tenant using the premises for unlawful purposes
  • the tenant exceeding the maximum number of people who may reside at the property
  • the landlord failing to comply with their obligations regarding cleanliness, maintenance, relevant building, health and safety regulations
  • the landlord interfering with the supply of services, for example electricity.

Boarding Houses

In addition to these changes, boarding house tenancies are now also covered by the Act.

What is a boarding house?

Not all boarding house tenancies are covered by the Act. For the Act to apply the boarding house must:

  • be a residential premises with one or more boarding rooms
  • have facilities for communal use by the tenants
  • be occupied, or intended by the landlord to be occupied by at least 6 tenants at any one time.

In addition, the tenancy must last, or be intended to last for at least 28 days and the tenant must have:

  • exclusive right to occupy the sleeping quarters
  • shared use of the facilities.

See Boarding Houses for more information.

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All about money

Bonds

A bond is money the tenant pays at the start of the tenancy to cover anything they might owe at the end. The landlord can ask for a bond that is up to the equivalent of 4 weeks’ rent. The landlord can’t ask for more than this. A landlord doesn’t have to ask for a bond, but most landlords do. The landlord must give the tenant a receipt for any bond paid.

What happens to the bond while the tenant is living in the property?

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment  looks after the bond. The tenant and landlord both fill in and sign the ‘Bond lodgement form', and the tenant pays the bond to the landlord. The landlord must send the form and the bond, including part payments, to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment within 23 working days. The tenant can send the bond directly to the Ministry if the landlord agrees.

When the Ministry receives the bond, we will write to both the landlord and tenant to confirm payment.

If you don’t get a letter from us about the bond money, you should call 0800 73 76 66. If you have provided an email address, this letter will be sent by email.

What happens to the bond money when the tenancy ends?

The landlord can claim some or all of the bond money if any money is owed to them by the tenant at the end of the tenancy – this might include unpaid rent or property damage. Otherwise, the bond should be returned to the tenant. If the landlord or tenant can’t locate the other person, they should call 0800 73 76 66.

Landlords who wish to claim a bond more than 2 months after a tenancy has ended must either obtain the tenant’s consent or an order of the Tenancy Tribunal.

For more information see Getting the bond back »

Rent

A landlord can ask for one or two weeks’ rent in advance. This is the first one or two weeks’ rent, depending on whether the tenant is going to pay weekly (one week in advance) or fortnightly (two weeks in advance). A landlord can’t ask for the next rent payment until all the paid rent has been used up. For example, if a tenant has paid two weeks’ rent in advance they don’t have to pay again until that money has been used up – that means 2 weeks (14 days) later.

How does the tenant pay the rent?

The tenant and the landlord must agree on how the rent will be paid and include these details in the tenancy agreement. Rent is usually paid in one of the following ways:

  • automatic payment
  • cash cheque
  • non-negotiable personal cheque
  • cash.

The landlord must give receipts for payment unless the rent is paid directly into their bank account or by non-negotiable cheque. However, it is a good idea to keep receipts and your own rent record. The landlord must keep rent records. The tenant can ask for a copy of these at any time.

You can get a sample rent summary form from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

What is market rent?

Market rent is what a willing landlord might reasonably expect to receive and a willing tenant might reasonably expect to pay for the tenancy. It must be comparable to the rent charged for other properties of a similar type, size and location.

Our website has a section on current market rents for different parts of the country which is updated monthly. If a landlord is charging significantly more than other similar properties, the Tenancy Tribunal could make an order for it to be reduced.

Can the landlord put the rent up?

Yes, but they must write and tell the tenant 60 days before they put the rent up. The landlord can’t put the rent up again for another 180 days. In a fixed-term tenancy, the rent can go up only if this is written in the tenancy agreement.

Other situations where the rent may be increased is if the landlord has:

  • substantially improved the premises, or
  • increased or improved facilities or services, or
  • if both parties have consented to vary the agreement to the tenant’s advantage.

In these situations the tenant has to agree to the rent increase.

What is a rent reduction?

Sometimes landlords and tenants agree to a rent reduction for a fixed period of time or until the occurrence of an event, like the installation of a heat pump.

During this time the tenant is entitled to pay a lower rent. After this time, the rent will revert back to its normal rate. This does not constitute a rent increase.

Letting fee

Often, a letting fee is charged by a letting agent for their services relating to the granting of a tenancy. This is allowed under the Act and is normally one week’s rent plus GST.

Key money

Other than letting fees, key money is generally prohibited under the Act. This is any sum of money that a landlord demands from a tenant to grant them a tenancy (it is separate from rent and bond).

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What to do at the start of the tenancy

Types of tenancy

There are two main types of tenancy. They are a periodic tenancy and a fixed-term tenancy. Whether you are a landlord or a tenant it is important you know what you have to do in each kind of tenancy so you can choose the one that suits you best.

Periodic tenancy – lasts until either the tenant or the landlord gives the required notice to end it.

Fixed-term tenancy – the tenancy lasts until the date specified on the tenancy agreement. At this time, the tenancy will revert to a periodic tenancy, unless:

  • the landlord and tenant enter into a new tenancy agreement or agree to extend the existing tenancy agreement, or
  • either the landlord or the tenant gives the other written notice of their intention not to continue with the tenancy. This notice must be given between 21 and 90 days before the end date of the fixed-term tenancy.

Are there any exceptions to the rules about fixed-term tenancies?

Yes, there are exceptions to the rules. Short fixed-term tenancies are different. If you sign a fixed-term tenancy agreement for less than 90 days, the rules about market rent, notice to quit and rent increases due to substantial improvements do not apply, but only if you agree in writing that the tenancy will not be renewed or extended beyond 90 days. If you then sign a new fixed-term agreement, you will have to follow all the normal rules.

Tenancy agreements

A tenancy agreement outlines what the landlord and tenant have agreed to. The landlord and tenant must sign the tenancy agreement and the landlord must give the tenant a copy before the tenancy begins. This is a legally binding contract. It is important this is completed accurately and carefully.

Many landlords use our tenancy agreement. Download the Residental tenancy agreement »

A verbal tenancy agreement could also be legally binding. This means you might have to do what you have agreed, even if you haven’t signed anything. For example, a landlord might not be able to change their mind if they tell a prospective tenant they can have the place. In the same way, if a tenant says they will take the place or if they pay some money, they might have to go ahead with the tenancy.

What should be in the tenancy agreement?

A written tenancy agreement and a good property inspection report can be very useful if you have problems later on.

A basic tenancy agreement must include:

  • the full names of both the landlord and tenant
  • the address for service of the landlord and tenant
  • the contact addresses of the landlord and tenant
  • the address of the property
  • the date you both sign the tenancy agreement
  • the date the tenancy begins
  • the date the tenancy will end (if it is for a fixed term)
  • whether the tenant is under 18
  • how much bond the tenant is paying
  • how much rent will be paid and how often
  • how the rent will be paid (the place or bank account number)
  • a list of any chattels (like a washing machine or furniture) that the landlord is providing.
  • a copy of the body corporate rules (if the premises are part of a Unit Title)

The tenancy agreement can also include:

  • how many people can live in the house
  • details of any letting fee
  • whether the tenant can transfer the tenancy to someone else
  • where the tenant can park their car
  • whether the tenant can have a cat or a dog or other pets.

Does everyone living in the property sign the tenancy agreement?

It’s up to the landlord and tenants to decide. If one tenant signs, the law says that person is responsible for the property. If everyone signs, they are usually all responsible. This is called joint and several liability. This means that if one tenant doesn’t pay their share of the rent or damages the property, the landlord can seek the money owed from any or all of the tenants, regardless of which tenant didn’t pay the rent or caused the damage.

Address for service

An address for service is the address where important notices relating to the tenancy will be sent to, such as notification of a hearing in the Tenancy Tribunal.

The address for service is a physical street address where you can be sent mail about the tenancy at any time. You can also provide a PO Box, email address or fax number as an additional address for service. The landlord and tenant must write their address for service on the tenancy agreement and on the ‘Bond lodgement form'. The tenancy address isn’t always a useful address for service for the tenant to give.

Tenants often give a friend or relative’s permanent home address. Landlords usually give their home or work address.

What happens if the address for service changes?

It is very important to tell the other party (that is, the landlord or the tenant) if this address changes. If the tenant has paid a bond, they must give the new address to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as well. Landlords must also tell us if their address for service changes.

Property inspections

Doing a property inspection at the start of the tenancy can help prevent any problems that may occur when the tenancy ends. The landlord and tenant should do this together before the tenant moves in and write down what the stove, the carpet and chattels, such as the curtains are like. Check walls and paintwork and look at the outside too. Make sure anything that is old or damaged is written down. If damage is written down when a tenancy starts, a tenant can’t be blamed for it when they move out. It is also easy to see if there is any new damage. Many landlords use the property inspection report that comes with our tenancy agreement.

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Rights and responsibilities

Landlords and tenants have rights and responsibilities when they agree to a tenancy. Some of these are listed below.

The landlord must:

  • sign a tenancy agreement and give the tenant a copy
  • send any bond money, including part payments, to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment within 23 working days and give the tenant a receipt for any payment that is made
  • make sure the property is clean and tidy before the tenant moves in
  • make sure all the locks work and the property is reasonably secure
  • maintain the property and do any necessary repairs
  • ensure the plumbing, electrical wiring and the structure of the building is safe and working
  • provide adequate water collection and storage for premises without reticulated water supply
  • write and tell the tenant at least 60 days before they put the rent up
  • take all reasonable steps to ensure tenants don’t disturb any of the landlord's other tenants
  • write and tell the tenant if they decide to put the property on the market
  • obtain the tenant’s consent before showing the property to real estate agents, buyers or prospective tenants
  • pay the tenant back for any urgent work the tenant has paid for (as long as the tenant can prove they tried to tell the landlord about the problem before getting it fixed and the tenant didn’t cause it on purpose or by being careless)
  • in relation to a periodic tenancy:
    • give the tenant 42 days’ notice to vacate the property once the sale of the property has gone unconditional, or if the owner or a member of their family needs to move in
    • otherwise, give the tenant 90 days’ notice if they want the tenancy to end
  • give 48 hours’ notice to inspect the property – but not more than once every four weeks and only between the hours of 8am and 7pm (the landlord can come onto the section without giving notice, but must respect the tenant’s privacy)
  • give 24 hours’ notice to do repairs and do them between the hours of 8am and 7pm.

The landlord can also:

  • enter the property in an emergency without informing the tenant
  • enter the property at other times if the tenant freely allows.

The landlord must not:

  • ask for more than 4 weeks’ rent as bond
  • ask for more than 2 weeks’ rent in advance, or ask for rent to be paid before it is due
  • inspect the property more than once in every 4 weeks, except to check on work they’ve asked the tenant to do to remedy a breach of the tenancy agreement
  • interfere with the tenant’s peace, comfort and privacy
  • interfere with the supply of gas, water, electricity or telephone unless to avoid danger or to enable maintenance or repairs
  • unreasonably refuse to allow a tenant to put up fixtures such as shelves
  • change the locks unless the tenant agrees
  • unreasonably stop a tenant who wants to sublet or assign the tenancy to someone else, unless it is stated in the tenancy agreement that the tenant cannot assign or sublet the tenancy
  • evict a tenant (this needs a possession order enforced by the District Court)
  • take the tenant’s belongings as a security for money owed at any time during or after the tenancy or refuse to hand back belongings left behind at the end of the tenancy (provided the tenant pays any actual and reasonable storage costs).

The tenant must:

  • pay the rent on time (the tenant should not withhold rent even if they think the landlord is breaching the tenancy agreement)
  • keep the property reasonably clean and tidy
  • tell the landlord as soon as possible about any damage or anything that needs to be fixed
  • fix any damage they or their visitors cause on purpose or by being careless, or pay for someone to fix it
  • pay for all charges that are exclusively attributable to the tenant’s occupation of the premises, for example telephone, electricity, gas and internet
  • pay for water if the water supplier charges on the basis of consumption
  • make sure the number of people living in the property does not exceed the amount the tenancy agreement allows (this does not include people visiting for a short time)
  • give 21 days’ notice to leave (if on a periodic tenancy)
  • let the landlord show prospective tenants, real estate agents, buyers or valuers through the property in a way that suits the landlord and tenant
  • leave at the end of the tenancy and:
    • take away all their belongings 
    • leave the property reasonably clean and tidy 
    • give back all keys, access cards and garage door openers 
    • leave everything the landlord owns.

The tenant must not:

  • stop the landlord coming into the property when the Act says they can
  • remain at the property after the tenancy has ended
  • disturb the peace, comfort or privacy of other tenants and neighbours, or allow anyone else at the property to do so
  • damage, or let anyone the tenant has allowed on the premises damage the property, whether it be on purpose or carelessly
  • renovate the building, change it or attach anything to it unless this is in the tenancy agreement or the landlord agrees in writing
  • interfere with, or stop from working any means of escape from fire such as smoke alarms
  • transfer the tenancy to someone else, unless the landlord agrees in writing
  • threaten or assault, or permit any other person to threaten or assault, the landlord, or any member of the landlord’s family, or any agent of the landlord, or another building occupant or neighbour
  • do anything illegal at the property or let anyone else do anything illegal
  • change the locks without asking the landlord first.

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Sorting things out

Can the landlord make the tenant clean the property up or fix something they’ve damaged?

If a landlord thinks the tenant can fix the problem, they can write and tell them they have 14 consecutive days to do it. The landlord can get a sample 'Notice to remedy' from our website. If the tenant doesn’t fix the problem, the landlord can ask the Tenancy Tribunal for an order to make them do the work. If the problem is very serious, the Tribunal can end the tenancy.

What does the tenant do if they want the landlord to fix something?

The law says the tenant must tell the landlord straight away if something breaks down or goes wrong. The best way to solve problems is to talk about them with your landlord and see if you can sort it out together. If this doesn’t work, issue a 'Notice to remedy". This gives the landlord 14 consecutive days to fix the problem. A copy is available on our website.

If the landlord still doesn’t do the repairs after a 'Notice to remedy' is issued, the tenant can ask the Tenancy Tribunal for help. A tenant can ask for an order that the landlord must do the work, for money to get the work done, or for the tenancy to end.

What can the tenant do if the problem is serious or urgent?

If the problem is likely to hurt people or damage anything, the tenant must tell the landlord about it. If the tenant tries to get in touch with the landlord but can’t, they can get the problem fixed themselves. They can then ask the landlord to pay them for the repairs. If the landlord doesn’t pay, the tenant can ask the Tenancy Tribunal for help.

Can the landlord tell the tenant to leave because the tenant has complained?

Sometimes a landlord will tell a tenant to leave because they have told the landlord or the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment about a problem. This could be retaliatory notice. The Act says the landlord cannot give retaliatory notice. A tenant can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal if they believe the landlord has given such a notice. The Tribunal will determine whether the notice is lawful (the notice was given on legitimate terms) or can order the notice be overturned.

How can the Ministry help us sort out our disputes?

The first thing you should always do is talk to each other about the problem. Often there has been a simple misunderstanding or mistake. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment can give you advice about ways to deal with problems yourselves. We have produced a dispute resolution toolkit. This toolkit offers landlords and tenants guidance on how to prevent and sort out tenancy problems.

See the Dispute Resolution Toolkit.

Before talking to your landlord or tenant:

  • Make sure you are clear about what your concerns are. Sometimes writing down what the problem is will help explain it to the other person.
  • Be ready to suggest what you think a good solution might be. Describe the problem carefully and give a reasonable amount of time for it to be put right.
  • You might write a letter or issue a 'Notice to remedy'. A 'Notice to remedy' gives the other person 14 days to fix the problem. See examples here. 

If you can’t agree yourselves, come to mediation

Get help from us by applying to the Tenancy Tribunal. The application fee is $20.44. Once we have received your application we will arrange mediation for you.

Mediation is a process where you and the other person have the opportunity to discuss the problem, and agree on a solution by talking together with a mediator. The mediator will help you identify the issues and reach a workable solution.

How does mediation work?

Mediation can be by phone or in person. Mediators know a lot about tenancy issues but they don’t take sides and they don’t decide anything for you. It’s confidential and you decide between you and the other party what will happen. Mediation is different from a Tenancy Tribunal hearing where the adjudicator will make a decision, and tell you both what will happen.

If you agree on a solution

An agreement made in mediation is legally binding. This agreement or mediated order will usually say what will happen if it is broken. To make the agreement enforceable it can be stamped or ‘sealed’ by the Tenancy Tribunal.

What kinds of orders can be agreed to?

There are different kinds of orders but the most common are possession, monetary and work orders. They can all be made either in mediation or by the Tribunal.

Possession order

If the tenant breaches the tenancy agreement or the Act and the situation is serious enough, the landlord can ask the Tenancy Tribunal for an order to end the tenancy. This can happen if the tenant:

  • was at least 21 days in arrears with the rent (at the date on which the application to the Tenancy Tribunal was filed)
  • has substantially damaged or has threatened to damage the property
  • has assaulted or threatened to assault the owner, the landlord or the landlord’s family or agent, or other tenants or neighbours (or caused or permitted another person to do so)
  • is breaking the tenancy agreement in some other way (for example, when the landlord has given a 'Notice to remedy' and the tenant hasn’t done this) and the Tribunal believes it would be unfair to let the tenancy continue. If the problem can be fixed, a 'Notice to remedy', giving the other party 14 consecutive days to fix the problem, must be sent before applying to the Tribunal.

Monetary order

This says a landlord or tenant must pay money to the other party.

This could be because:

  • the tenant owes rent or has paid too much rent
  • the tenant has to pay for damage, cleaning, gardening or rubbish removal
  • the landlord owes the tenant money for urgent repairs
  • the tenant or landlord has to pay exemplary damages (this is like a fine) for breaking the law
  • either the tenant or the landlord has to pay compensation when something is lost or doesn’t work because it hasn’t been maintained or fixed properly.

Work order

This is an order that says a person has to fix something because it is damaged. If they don’t do the work, they may have to pay money instead.

Alternative orders

An order can say what will happen if the person doesn’t obey the order. It is then up to the other party to say if they need to do that. For example, an order for a landlord to give a tenant’s goods back to them can say the landlord must pay money if they don’t give them back.

If you don’t agree on a solution at mediation.

You can ask the Tenancy Tribunal for a hearing. The Tribunal is more formal than mediation. The Tribunal is part of the Ministry of Justice, and an adjudicator listens to each person, hears any witnesses, looks at any evidence the landlord or tenant brings, and then makes a decision.

The Tenancy Tribunal can make a decision that affects you even if you don’t turn up to the hearing. The adjudicator writes down their decision as a Tribunal order. The adjudicator’s decision is like a court order – both sides receive a copy and both sides have to obey it.

Tribunal hearings are open to the public. Both the landlord and the tenant can take support people with them, but in most cases you can’t use a lawyer to present your case. However, you can use a lawyer in some situations including if:

  • the dispute is for more than $6,000
  • the other side says it’s OK
  • the other party is using a lawyer
  • a solicitor has been managing your affairs because you can’t do it yourself, or because you live somewhere else.

The Tribunal might also let you use a lawyer in some situations if:

  • your problem is quite complicated
  • there is a significant disparity between you and the other party which affects your ability to present your case.

In some cases, someone who is not a lawyer can represent you. If you think you may need this you should talk it over with us before you go to the Tribunal.

How can I get the other person to do what the order says?

If you have a sealed mediator’s order or a Tribunal order, you can ask the Collections Unit at your local District Court to enforce it. You have to pay for this. You can get information about enforcement from us.

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Ending a tenancy

How much notice does a tenant give to end a periodic tenancy?

A tenant must write to the landlord stating that they want to end the tenancy at least 21 days before they want to leave.

How much notice does a landlord give to end a periodic tenancy?

The landlord should give the tenant 90 days’ notice in writing. However, the landlord can give 42 days notice if:

  • the property owner requires the property for themselves or their family member, as a principal place of residence
  • the property is being sold, the sale is unconditional and the buyer requires the property vacant
  • the landlord requires the property for occupation by employees (and the tenancy agreement clearly states the landlord uses or has acquired the premises for this purpose).

It’s a good idea to keep a copy of the notice. When you give notice to end a tenancy you must:

  • give the notice in writing
  • give the address of the property
  • give the date when the tenancy will end
  • sign it.

If the tenant is being given less than 90 days’ notice, the notice to terminate the tenancy must set out the reason for the shortened notice.

What happens if a tenant wants to move out earlier?

If a landlord gives a tenant notice to end the tenancy, the tenant can stay in the property until the final date. However, if the tenant chooses to move out sooner than that, they must still give 21 days’ written notice to the landlord.

Sometimes a landlord will not mind the tenant leaving even earlier, but they must agree about this in writing.

Ending a fixed-term tenancy early

You can’t end a fixed-term tenancy early unless both the landlord and tenant agree, or the Tenancy Tribunal says you can. The end date is in the tenancy agreement.

The Tenancy Tribunal can order a fixed-term tenancy be ended early if:

  • there is a serious breach of the tenancy agreement, or
  • the tenant has received notice of a rent increase by an amount the tenant could not have foreseen, the increase is substantial, and has or will cause serious hardship, or
  • the tenancy is subject to body corporate operational rules under the Unit Titles Act 2010, the tenant is adversely affected by a change to these rules, and it would be unreasonable for the tenant to continue with the tenancy.

Does it matter how I send the notice?

You can send the notice to the address for service given on the tenancy agreement. This could be a physical address, PO Box, email address or fax number.

If you deliver the notice to the person by hand, it is considered to be served straight away.

To make sure you provide enough time for your notice to reach the other person, you should:

  • allow 4 working days if you’re sending the notice by mail
  • allow 2 working days if you leave the notice at their door or in their letter box
  • allow 1 working day if sent by email after 5pm (see notes below about using email) 
  • allow 1 working day if sent by fax after 5pm

The notice period begins the day after the notice has been received. For example, if the tenant is giving a landlord 21 days’ notice to end the tenancy and they are sending their notice by mail, they should allow 4 working days for the landlord to receive the notice. The 21 days starts the day after the landlord receives the notice.

What if I email the notice?

If you are serving a notice by email, it may be a good idea to request a delivery receipt before sending the notice.

A delivery receipt will tell you when the email arrives into the other person’s inbox.

What happens at the end of a fixed-term tenancy?

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2010 brought in important new rules about what happens at the end of a fixed-term tenancy.

On the date the fixed-term tenancy ends, the tenancy shall continue as a periodic tenancy, with the same terms contained in the expired tenancy, unless:

  • the tenant and landlord enter into a new tenancy agreement, or extend the existing tenancy agreement, or
  • either party gives the other party written notice of their intention to end the tenancy. The period in which a landlord or tenant can give such notice to end the tenancy is between 21 and 90 days before the date the tenancy expires.

If there is a right in the tenancy agreement to renew or extend the tenancy and the tenant wishes to renew or extend the tenancy, the tenant must write to the landlord to advise them, no later than 21 days before the tenancy is due to expire, otherwise the landlord does not have to accept a renewed or extended tenancy.

Preparing to leave

What does the tenant have to do when they leave the property?

The tenant must:

  • move out by the date the landlord has given them in a written notice or in a fixed-term tenancy agreement
  • pay the rent up to the last day of the tenancy
  • leave the property reasonably clean and tidy
  • remove any rubbish by the last day of the tenancy
  • remove their belongings
  • give the landlord all keys, access cards and garage door openers
  • leave behind anything that belongs to the landlord.
  • If the tenant doesn’t do all these things, the landlord can ask us for some or all of the bond.

Getting the bond back

When a tenancy ends ideally the landlord and tenant will be able to agree on how much of the bond should be paid out. Use the property inspection report completed at the start of the tenancy to help determine if there has been any damage to the property. The landlord can’t ask the tenant to pay for normal wear and tear to the property or chattels.

Bond refund form

When you have agreed what will happen with the bond, the landlord and tenant should complete a ‘Bond refund form'. A copy of this is available from our website.

If you agree that the tenant owes some money for damage or overdue rent, you write this on the form and then sign it. For example, if a bond is $600 and both agree the cost of window repairs is $150, you will write:

  • Pay landlord $150.00
  • Pay tenant $450.00

Make sure you write your bank account numbers on the ‘Bond refund form' because we don’t send cash or cheques.

When we receive the ‘Bond refund form', we check all the signatures to make sure they’re the same as the signatures on the ‘Bond lodgement form'. This is why it’s very important to make sure we always know whenever there is a new landlord or tenant. If the signatures aren’t the same, we will not be able to refund the bond without asking for more information.

Sometimes a tenant is moving to a new place and it’s easier for them if we just transfer their bond money from their old place to their new one. You will need to use the ‘Bond transfer’ form.

What happens if the landlord and the tenant can’t agree?

Apply to the Tenancy Tribunal as soon as possible. A mediator will then help you sort it out.

What if I can’t contact the landlord or tenant?

If you can’t contact the landlord or tenant to fill in the ‘Bond refund’ form, contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to discuss your options.

What happens when only one of the tenants moves out

Sometimes, when there are multiple tenants on the same tenancy agreement, just one tenant leaves and the other tenants stay on. If the landlord agrees, the new tenant can simply ‘take over’ the old tenant's share of the bond. If you do this, you must tell us by making sure the landlord, old tenaand the new flatmate fill in and sign a ‘Change of tenant’ bond form and send it to us.

This does not change the tenancy agreement. A new tenancy agreement should be drawn up to include the new flatmate.

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Other things about renting

Landlords who are absent for longer than 21 days

Landlords who are absent from New Zealand for longer than 21 consecutive days must appoint an agent to manage their property during this period. The landlord must let the tenants and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (if a bond has been lodged) know the contact details of their agent. 

When a rental property is sold

Does the landlord have to tell the tenant they’re selling the property?

Yes, they must tell the tenant or anyone who wants to rent the property in writing if they are trying to sell it. Landlords have the right to show buyers through the property with the consent of the tenant, which should not be unreasonably withheld.

When a property is sold the former landlord must tell the tenant who the new owner is and when they take over. The new owner must tell the tenant their name, how to get in touch with them and how the tenant must pay the rent, for example, the new bank account number. When the property is sold the original landlord’s interest in the bond will pass to the new landlord.

If the original landlord wants to make a claim against the bond they will need to do so before the date of settlement (or date of possession, if earlier).

What does the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment need to know?

If the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment holds a bond, we need to know when there is a new landlord. Both the new and the former landlords must fill in and sign the ‘Change of landlord/agent form'. We will then put the new landlord’s name on our bond records.

Are there special rules for mortgagee sales?

When a mortgagee or new owner takes over the tenancy they will have the same rights as a landlord under the Residential Tenancies Act, with one exception. If there is a fixed-term tenancy in place, the bank or mortgagee can give notice as if it was a periodic tenancy with some exceptions. The tenant also has the right to terminate a fixed-term tenancy as if it were a periodic tenancy if a mortgagee takes possession. The tenant’s and new landlord’s other rights all stay the same.

Can the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment help when there are arguments between flatmates?

No, we can’t help. We can only help with problems between tenants and landlords. However, remember that if you move into a flat and sign a tenancy agreement along with the other tenants, you share responsibility for the whole tenancy. This is called joint and several liability. If one tenant doesn’t pay their share of the rent or damages the property, the landlord can seek the money owed from any or all of the tenants, irrespective of which tenant didn’t pay the rent or caused the damage. Community Law Centres, Citizens’ Advice Bureau and student accommodation advisers can offer advice on flatmate relationships.

Can the landlord refuse to rent the property to someone?

A landlord can’t base their decision on who to rent to or whether to continue a tenancy based on things like a person’s marital status, gender, age, religion or colour. A landlord also can’t say no because the person doesn’t have a job or receives a benefit. If this does happen, you could apply to the Tenancy Tribunal or the Human Rights Commission for discrimination.

Service tenancy

A service tenancy is when an employee rents a property from their employer as part of their contract or terms of employment. Service tenancies are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, but they have special rules about rent paid in advance and ending the tenancy.

Rent payments

Special rules apply when a landlord deducts the rent straight out of their tenant’s pay (when the tenant is their employee). For more information about this, contact us.

Notice periods

If the employment contract has ended or notice has been given that it will end, the employee or employer must give 2 weeks’ notice to end the tenancy. That notice can’t expire before the employment contract ends. Less notice can be given if the landlord:

  • needs the house for another employee when the current employee is being replaced
  • thinks the tenant will cause substantial damage to the property.

If you are thinking about a service tenancy, we can give you more information and advice.

Abandoned goods

Sometimes a tenant doesn’t take all of their belongings at the end of the tenancy. In 2010, new rules were developed for the handling of abandoned goods.

  • The landlord can immediately dispose of foodstuffs and perishable goods, but they must make a reasonable attempt to contact the tenant to arrange collection of all other abandoned goods.
  • If the goods remain uncollected, the landlord should make all reasonable efforts to assess the market value of the goods, and:
    • immediately dispose of any goods where the cost of removing, storing and selling the goods would be more than the proceeds of sale (except for personal papers)
    • if the value of the goods is more than the cost of removing and storing the goods, then the landlord must store the goods for at least 35 days, after which time, the goods may be sold at a reasonable market price.
  • Any personal papers unclaimed after 35 days may remain in storage or else must be handed to Police. If handed to the Police, the landlord must obtain a receipt for them.
  • The tenant may claim any stored goods at any time prior to disposal,on payment of reasonable storage and disposal costs.
  • The landlord may deduct removal, storage and disposal costs from sale proceeds. The remaining funds must be paid to the Residential Tenancies Trust Account.
  • The landlord may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for those funds to be paid to the landlord to cover other money owed to the landlord (such as rent, damage, or cleaning costs).
  • At any stage, the landlord may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for an order on how to deal with the goods.

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Boarding houses

This section explains the rights and responsibilities of boarding house landlords and tenants. In 2010 the Residential Tenancies Act was amended to cover boarding house tenancies. Rules for boarding house tenancies differ to other residential tenancies.

What is a boarding house?

A boarding house is a residential premises that contains one or more boarding rooms with facilities for communal use, and is occupied, or intended to be occupied, by at least six tenants at any one time.

A boarding house tenancy means a tenancy in a boarding house that will last, or is intended to last, for 28 days or more. The tenant occupies particular sleeping quarters and has the right to shared use of the facilities in the boarding house.

Bonds

A landlord of a boarding house tenancy can ask for a bond of up to 4 weeks’ rent and must provide the tenant with a receipt. A landlord of a boarding house tenancy must lodge the bond with theMinistry of Business, Innovation and Employment within 23 working days, unless the bond is equivalent to one week’s rent or less.

If a bond of one week’s rent or less is taken, and the landlord unjustifiably withholds this money at the end of the tenancy, the tenant may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for an order to refund the bond.

Rent

  • A boarding house tenant must pay their rent on time. 
  • Boarding house landlords can increase rent with 28 days’ written notice.

Tenancy agreement

A landlord of a boarding house tenancy must provide tenants with a written tenancy agreement. In addition to the information listed on page 8, this should include:

  • whether the tenancy will last for 28 days or more
  • one or more telephone numbers for the landlord
  • the boarding room number
  • if there are any other tenants in the room, and if so, how many
  • services to be provided by the landlord that are included in rent (if any)
  • fire evacuation procedures.

House rules

A landlord of a boarding house tenancy may make house rules relating to the use and enjoyment of the premises and the provision of services.

The copy must be provided to the tenant at the start of the tenancy and a copy must also be on display in the premises at all times. The landlord must give 7 days’ written notice to change the house rules.

A tenant in boarding house tenancy may apply to the Tribunal for an order declaring:

  • a house rule to be unlawful
  • that a house rule be applied in a particular way, varied or set aside.

Locks

A landlord of a boarding house tenancy must:

  • provide and maintain sufficient locks to ensure premises are reasonably secure
  • ensure tenants have access to their room, toilet and bathroom facilities at all times
  • advise any tenant who will be affected by altering, adding or removing any lock.

A tenant in a boarding house tenancy:

  • must not interfere with any lock without the landlord’s consent
  • must return all keys provided by the landlord on termination of the tenancy.

Rights of entry

A landlord of a boarding house tenancy may enter the boarding house at any time.

A landlord of a boarding tenancy may enter a boarding room without notice, at any time:

  • with the tenant’s consent freely given at, or immediately before, the time of entry (or if the room is shared, the consent of any tenant of the room), or
  • if the landlord believes on reasonable grounds that there is an emergency, or that there is serious risk to life or property, and immediate entry is necessary to reduce or eliminate that risk, or
  • where entry is necessary to provide services that the landlord and tenant have agreed to, as long as entry is in accordance with the conditions of the agreement or house rules, or
  • in accordance with an order from the Tenancy Tribunal.

A landlord of a boarding house tenancy may enter a boarding room after giving 24 hours’ written notice to the tenant (or to each tenant if the room is shared) in some situations. These include:

  • to inspect the room, if no entry for that purpose has been made within the last 4 weeks
  • to inspect the room, if the landlord believes the tenant has abandoned the rooms, or breached the Act in another way
  • to show the room to a prospective tenant or purchaser
  • where entry is necessary to enable the landlord to fulfill their obligations under the Act
  • to inspect work the landlord required the tenant to carry out, or the tenant agreed to carry out
  • to show the room to a registered valuer, real estate agent or building inspector engaged in the preparation of a report.

When entering a boarding room, the landlord:

  • must not interfere with the tenant’s property, unless it is necessary to achieve the purpose of entry
  • must do so in a reasonable manner
  • must not use or threaten to use unauthorised force
  • must not stay in the room longer than is necessary to achieve the purpose of entry.

Ending a boarding house tenancy

A tenant in a boarding house tenancy may terminate a tenancy with 48 hours’ notice to the landlord.

A landlord of a boarding house tenancy may terminate a tenancy:

  • immediately if the tenant has caused or threatened to cause:
  • serious damage to the premises, or
  • danger to people or property, or
  • serious disruption to other residents
  • with 48 hours’ notice if:
    • the tenant fails to remedy rent arrears within 10 days of receiving a notice to do so 
    • the tenant has used or permitted the premises to be used for an illegal purpose
    • the rent is in arrears and the landlord considers on reasonable grounds the tenant has abandoned the room, after inspecting the room and, if possible, making contact with the tenant’s contact person
  • with 14 days’ notice if it is a service tenancy
  • with 28 days’ notice in any other case.

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Glossary

Term Meaning
‘14 days’ notice' A 'Notice to remedy', giving the other party 14 consecutive days to fix a problem.
Abandoned goods Goods left behind by the tenant after they move out. Refer to page 23 for more information.
Address for service The address given in writing by a landlord or tenant where all formal documents about the tenancy can be sent even after the tenancy has ended. Landlords and tenants must give a physical address and can also give a PO Box, email address or fax number as an additional address for service.
Automatic payment Where a person arranges for their bank to make regular payments from their bank account.
Boarding house

A residential premises occupied by boarding house tenants. Refer to page 24 for an explanation of when the Act can apply.

Bond lodgement form A form that landlords and tenants use when they send bond money to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment .
Bond refund form A form that landlords and tenants use to get bond money back from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment when the tenant moves out.
Chattels Things the landlord provides, such as curtains, a fridge or a washing machine, that are not fixed in place.
Compensation Money that is paid to a landlord or tenant to make up for any loss or damage.
Joint and several liability All tenants listed on the tenancy agreement share responsibility for the tenancy. Refer to >page 9 for more information.
Letting agent A person who, in the ordinary course of business, acts as an agent to grant tenancies for payment. This may be, for example, a property manager or real estate agent.
Market rent

The level of rent other people are paying for the same sort of property in a similar sort of area.

Mediation A meeting or phone call where a mediator helps the landlord and tenant sort out their problems.
Notice to remedy Also known as a ‘14 days’ notice' giving the other party 14 consecutive days to fix a problem.
Rent in advance Rent a tenant pays for an upcoming period (of no more than 2 weeks). For example, if a tenant pays 2 weeks’ worth of rent on 1 May, they will have paid for the period from 1 May to 14 May. Rent is next due on 15 May.
Retaliatory notice When a landlord gives a tenant notice to end the tenancy because the tenant has complained about something or has tried to do something that they are allowed to do under the law.
Tenancy When a property owner lets another person or group live in a place in exchange for rent.
Tenancy adjudicator An independent person at the Tenancy Tribunal who listens to your arguments and makes the decision on the outcome of the dispute.
Tenancy agreement A written agreement that the landlord and the tenant sign before the tenant moves in, so everyone knows what they have agreed to.
Tenancy Tribunal The body, similar to a court, that decides how a problem between a tenant and landlord will be solved.
Tribunal order A written ruling made by the Tenancy Tribunal that everyone has to obey.
Wear and tear The normal things that happen in a property when people live in it, such as the carpet getting older or the walls getting small marks on them.
Work order An order to get a property fixed or for work to be done on the property.
Written notice A letter from the landlord or tenant to tell the other person that something is happening, such as moving out or an increase in rent.

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