Renting rights

We answer common questions about your rights as a renter.

handing over keys

What you need to know about your rights as a renter.

Bond, letting fees and rent

Do I have to pay a bond?

It’s the landlord’s choice whether they charge a bond but most do. You have to pay the bond if one’s charged. The maximum amount is four weeks’ rent.

Once you’ve paid, the landlord must give you a receipt and pay the bond money to Tenancy Services within 23 working days.

What about letting fees?

Letting fees are now illegal. If a landlord or property manager tries charging one, they’re breaking the law.

We moved into our flat two months ago and the landlord already wants to put up the rent. Can they do this?

No. Your landlord can only increase rent after the first 180 days of a tenancy. They must give at least 60 days’ written notice of a rent increase.

Heating and insulation

Do landlords have to provide heating?

Landlords must provide a form of heating in living areas. However, the law doesn’t state what type must be supplied. In practice, a cheap electric heater may be considered adequate.

If there is fixed heating in your rental, your landlord is responsible for maintaining it. For example, if you have a fireplace, the landlord must ensure regular maintenance and checks are carried out.

What about insulation?

Since July 2019, rentals have been required to have ceiling and underfloor insulation (where it’s practicable to install).

The tenancy agreement must include a statement outlining the property’s level of insulation.

Maintenance and repairs

Who’s responsible for maintenance?

The landlord must keep the property in a reasonable state. This includes fixing leaks, busted guttering, or broken windows and doors.

Your landlord is responsible for making sure the property is pest-free.
Your landlord is responsible for making sure the property is pest-free.

As a tenant, you’re responsible for keeping the home reasonably clean and tidy, and not causing or allowing damage to the property. You must also let the landlord know if repairs are needed.

There are rats nesting in the ceiling. Who has to sort that out?

Your landlord is responsible for making sure the property is pest-free, which means sorting out rats living in the ceiling.

You have a responsibility as the tenant to keep the house in a condition that doesn’t encourage vermin. You also need to let your landlord know when there’s a pest problem.

What about smoke alarm batteries? Who has to replace them?

While your landlord must ensure the house has working smoke alarms, you’re responsible for changing the batteries (if the alarm has replaceable batteries). You also need to let the landlord know if a smoke alarm is broken.

Smoke alarms must be within three metres of each bedroom door, or in every room where a person sleeps.

I’ve asked the landlord several times to fix a window broken in a storm. Nothing’s happened. What can I do?

If the repair is urgent, or the broken window is dangerous, you can get it fixed and ask the landlord to reimburse you. As long as you’ve made reasonable efforts to advise them of the problem, they have to foot the bill. Take photos and keep paperwork as evidence of what’s been done.

What if the problem isn’t urgent? You can issue your landlord with a 14-day notice to fix (sample notices can be found at tenancy.govt.nz). If the window hasn’t been fixed within that time, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a work order requiring the landlord to repair the damage.

Can I stop paying rent if repairs haven’t been done?

Unfortunately, no. However, the Tenancy Tribunal can order a landlord to reduce your rent until repairs are completed. The landlord can also be required to pay you compensation.

Ending a tenancy

How much notice do I need to give if I want to end a tenancy?

It depends on the type of tenancy. If you have a periodic tenancy agreement – an agreement with no fixed end date – you have to give 21 days’ written notice.

If you’re on a fixed-term agreement – say for 12 or 24 months – the agreement finishes at the end of this term. You can only end it early if the landlord consents.

My landlord agreed to end the fixed-term agreement two months early but says I’ll have to pay a $600 fee if I want out. Is this right?

Landlords can charge a break fee when a fixed-term contract is ended early. However, they can’t just charge what they like. Any fee must be limited to the reasonable costs they’ve incurred.

You’re not required to get the carpets professionally cleaned when you move out.
You’re not required to get the carpets professionally cleaned when you move out.

You’re entitled to ask for a breakdown of the charges and can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a determination of the costs you’re required to pay.

No fees can be charged to end a periodic tenancy.

The landlord says I have to get the carpets professionally cleaned when I move out. Do I have to pay for this?

No. You must leave the property in a reasonably clean and tidy condition but you’re not required to get the carpets professionally cleaned.

The landlord says we have to move out in three weeks because his daughter wants to live in the house. Can they kick us out like this?

No, that’s illegal. If the landlord’s family member is going to live in the house, you have to be given at least 42 days’ notice.

You also have to be given 42 days’ notice if the house has been sold and the new buyer doesn’t want tenants, or the property is needed for an employee.

Otherwise, the landlord must give you at least 90 days' written notice to end the tenancy.

If you’re on a fixed-term agreement, the landlord can’t give you notice.

Complaints

What if my landlord isn’t meeting their obligations?

If you’re having a problem with your landlord, you can call Tenancy Services for advice – 0800 836 262 (0800 Tenancy).

Consumer NZ members can also call our expert advisers for help on what to do if a landlord isn’t meeting their obligations under tenancy law.

Changing the rules

New rules are coming to make rental properties warmer and drier.

From July 2021, private landlords must ensure their rentals comply with the following standards within 90 days of any new, or renewed, tenancy:

  • the property must have a fixed heater that can warm the main living area to 18˚C
  • the minimum level of ceiling and underfloor insulation must meet the 2008 Building Code or have a minimum thickness of 120mm and be in reasonable condition
  • kitchens and bathrooms must have extraction fans or rangehoods
  • where the home has an enclosed subfloor space, a ground moisture barrier must be installed
  • draughts that make a home harder to heat have to be blocked.

Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act to improve protection for renters are also being considered.

Key changes we want to see include regulation of property managers. Our research has found tenants who rent through a property management company are more likely to get a raw deal.

We also want to see rules preventing landlords from ending tenancies without cause. Our survey research found fear of losing their home was one of the main reasons why renters didn’t complain about problems.

For more information about the fixes we want in the rental market, read our report.

A renter's guide to a warmer home

A renter's guide to a warmer home

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A renter's guide to a warmer home

Our free guide provides advice and tips on what you can do to make your home warmer, cosier and cheaper to heat.

See more from our guide

Why is this free?

This report is free thanks to funding from the Ministry of Health.

Consumer NZ is non-profit. To help us get a fairer deal for all New Zealand consumers you can become a Consumer member or make a donation. We’ll use your contribution to investigate consumer issues and work for positive change.

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