Renting a house
Renting is a good first option when you arrive, because it gives you the security of a place to call home without the big financial commitment.
A beginner’s guide to renting
Many New Zealanders own their own homes, so there is less rental housing available here than in most countries.
Prices and quality vary so we recommend you visit the property personally before signing a lease (Tenancy Agreement). Things to consider include how close the property is to transport, shops and schools, as well as the general feel of the neighbourhood.
Most rental properties are unfurnished, apart from an oven, a laundry facility and things like curtains and carpet. The landlord does not have to provide a heater, so in some cases you may have to provide your own. Make sure you think about how you are going to stay warm.
Demand for good quality rentals properties is high. It may take some time to find a suitable property and when you do, you will usually have to make a quick decision.
Real estate agents and property management companies
Many real estate agents and property management companies also deal in rental properties and can help you find a property for which you pay a commission (letting fee). A letting fee is charged by a letting agent for their services relating to the granting of a tenancy and is due only once a rental contract is completed. This fee is normally one week’s rent, plus GST.
Some firms list houses and flats for rent, and charge a fee for checking their lists and providing the contact details of landlords for the places you are interested in. The fee is generally less than that charged by real estate agents and property management companies, but it may be charged even if you do not find a home through their lists. If you are referred to a real estate agent or property management company by the Flat-listing service, you may also have to pay the letting agent’s fee.
Types of tenancies
There are two main types of tenancies:
Periodic – this is any tenancy that is not for a fixed time, and continues until the landlord or the tenant ends it by giving notice. The Tenancy Tribunal can also order that the tenancy will end.
This is the most common form of tenancy. In most circumstances, a tenant can leave this type of tenancy by giving 21 days notice in writing. A landlord is required to give 90 days written notice to end a tenancy.
However, if the property has been sold or will be used by the owner or the owner's family, or if the property is normally used as employee accommodation and is needed again for that purpose (and this is included in the tenancy agreement) only 42 days' notice is required.
Fixed-term - these finish on a date recorded in the agreement, and neither the landlord nor the tenant can end the tenancy earlier unless it’s by mutual agreement. Don’t sign up for a fixed term unless you’re very sure you will be able to stay for that amount of time – it is difficult to get out of a fixed-term tenancy.
A fixed-term tenancy automatically becomes a periodic tenancy when the fixed term expires, unless either the landlord or the tenant gives the other written notice of their intention to end the tenancy.
This notice needs to be given no sooner than 90 days before the end of the tenancy and no later than 21 days before the end of the tenancy. It is a good idea to seek advice from the Department of Building and Housing before signing an agreement for these types of tenancies.
Your landlord must provide you with a Tenancy Agreement Form. This sets out the conditions of the lease in plain language. Both you and the landlord sign the agreement and keep a copy. Never sign anything you do not understand. Your landlord cannot include anything in the agreement which is different from the law. If they do, it is unenforceable. See the Living Guide for a detailed account of what information should be included in a tenancy agreement.
Many landlords use the Department of Building and Housing’s tenancy agreement. You can download a copy from www.dbh.govt.nz
Property Inspection Report
A Property Inspection Report is usually included with the tenancy agreement. It is important to record and agree with your landlord not only on the furniture and fittings (such as lampshades and curtains) that are provided, but also the condition of the property and any equipment. For instance, if the kitchen bench has a burn mark on it, make sure this is noted in the report so you are not held responsible for it when the tenancy ends.
What you will need to pay
When you agree to rent a property, you usually need to pay:
- a bond
- rent in advance
- a letting fee (usually 1 week’s rent plus GST) if you have used a real estate agent or property management company.
You will also need to pay to connect the telephone, electricity and perhaps gas. In some parts of New Zealand you may also have to pay for the supply of water. Check with the landlord to see which of these costs you will have to pay.
A bond is an amount of money held to cover damage done by the tenants or their visitors during the term of the tenancy, beyond what is considered fair wear and tear.
Most landlords will require you to pay a bond equivalent to 2 or 4 weeks rent. They cannot ask you for more than 4 weeks rent as bond by law.
Your landlord will give you a Bond Lodgement Form that you and the landlord both need to complete and sign. The landlord must lodge the form and your payment for your bond with the Department of Building and Housing within 23 working days of receiving them.
You and your landlord will then both be sent a letter to confirm payment. If you have provided an email address, this letter will be sent by email. If you don’t receive this letter from the Department of Building and Housing, you should contact them on 0800 73 76 66 for bond enquiries.
Your bond will be refunded when you leave the property, unless you have rent owing or you have caused any damage. If there is damage, some or all of your bond can be used to pay for the repair.
When you tell your landlord that you’re going to move out, they will inspect the property. You and your landlord then sign a Bond Refund Form, and send it to the Department of Building and Housing, and your bond will be refunded. If you cannot reach agreement with the landlord over the return of your bond, contact the Department of Building and Housing on 0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62) for tenancy advice.
A landlord cannot require you to pay more than two weeks rent in advance. The landlord must give you a receipt for any rent you pay by either cash or cheque. If you use automatic payments, your bank records act as receipts.
Rents are determined by market demand and can vary widely depending on the property. You can check out market rents in your area on the Department of Building and Housing website.
If you think your rent is higher than it should be compared with similar properties, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal through the Department of Building and Housing for a market rent assessment.
If the Tribunal orders a lower rent, the landlord must comply with this ruling and also cannot increase the new rent for a period set by the Tribunal (usually six months).
If you have a periodic tenancy, your landlord cannot increase the rent within 180 days of either the start of the tenancy or the last rent increase. Rents for fixed-term tenancies also cannot be increased more frequently unless the Tenancy Agreement specifically provides for this.
When you rent a house, your rent does not include insurance for you, so it’s important that you take out contents insurance for both your possessions and to cover you for any liability for accidental damage to the property.
The insurance may also pay for you to live somewhere temporarily if there is an accident and the house can’t be lived in. It is your landlord’s responsibility to insure the actual property/building.
There’s a lot more information about renting including details of how to end a tenancy, repairs and disputes in the Living Guide.
It is a good idea to find out about your legal rights and responsibilities well before signing a tenancy agreement. The Department of Building and Housing can help you with this.
Free advice and information on renting is available by phoning (0800 TENANCY) 0800 83 62 62, or at www.dbh.govt.nz.
FREE Booklets on Renting
MBIE (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment) - Building & Housing Group has a free booklet on renting called
Renting and you - a guide for both landlords and tenants, available in Samoan, Tongan, Cook Island, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, Arabic and Korean as well as in Maori and English.
These publications are available from the MBIE - Building & Housing Group