Both tenants and landlords have rights and responsibilities when it comes to renting a home. Knowing what these are keeps everyone on the same page and will help you stand up for yourself in the event of any issues.
As a tenant, you have a right to enjoy the property you’re renting and be undisturbed by others – including the landlord. You’ve also got rights when it comes to rent increases, inspections, bond and insulation. Remember, organisations like Tenancy Services and Citizens Advice Bureau can help you or provide free advice if things go wrong.
Here are six rights you have when renting a home in New Zealand:
1. Your bond must be lodged with Tenancy Services
When you rent a property, you’ll likely have to pay a bond, which is held as security for any unpaid rent or damage to the home that was the tenant’s fault. Your landlord can’t keep the cash themselves – it must be lodged with Tenancy Services within 23 working days.
- The bond can’t be more than the equivalent of four weeks’ rent.
- A landlord can’t charge you over and above the four weeks’ amount – for example, an extra “pet bond” if you have a dog.
- If there’s no damage to the property, you’ve left it reasonably clean and tidy and the rent is up to date, your full bond will be refunded when you move out.
At the end of a tenancy, if your landlord can’t or won’t sign your bond refund form, fill it out yourself and send it to Tenancy Services anyway. Citizens Advice Bureau says that once the form has been submitted by either the tenant or the landlord, the other party has 10 days to object.
2. Landlords must give at least 48 hours’ notice before inspections
You have the right to peace and privacy when renting a home – this is called quiet enjoyment. It’s important for the landlord to arrange regular inspections of the rental property – but they have to give you the appropriate heads up.
- Your landlord must give you at least 48 hours’ notice before every inspection.
- Inspections must take place between 8am and 7pm.
- The tenant doesn’t have to be present – but you can be if you like.
Landlords can only carry out one inspection in every four week period. However, if an issue was discovered during an inspection and you’re asked to fix it, then your landlord can come back for a reinspection to make sure the problem has been sorted, but they still need to give you 48 hours’ notice.
3. You can’t be asked to have the house (or carpets) professionally cleaned when you move out
Some landlords try to include a clause in your tenancy agreement that says the property (or the carpets) must be professionally cleaned at the end of your tenancy. Other clauses include stating that a cleaning fee will be automatically deducted from your bond when you move out.
According to Tenancy Services, these clauses are unenforceable, even if you’ve signed an agreement that says this.
You do need to ensure the home is in the state it was in when your tenancy started, and is reasonably clean and tidy when you move out. If you fail to do this, then a landlord can deduct bond money for cleaning.
4. Rent increases can only happen once every six months – and the landlord must give you 60 days’ notice
Your landlord can increase the rent once every 180 days (that’s around every six months). The rent can’t be increased more frequently than this. Your landlord has to give you written warning of the increase 60 days before it kicks in.
Some landlords choose to have an annual rent review instead, with a new rate taking effect on a set date each year. This should be included in your tenancy agreement, or in writing before the tenancy starts.
With a fixed-term tenancy, the landlord can only increase the rent as allowed for in the tenancy agreement.
5. Repairs should be carried out in a reasonable amount of time
Tenants have to tell their landlord if anything is damaged or needs repairing. If you don’t tell them, and the problem gets worse, you can be liable for the cost of getting it fixed.
In the case of urgent damage or repairs, such as a gas leak or a smoking switchboard, tenants should act immediately.
For non-urgent issues, give your landlord a reasonable amount of time to carry out the repair. If you’ve flagged an issue with the property but your landlord hasn’t fixed it, or refuses to fix it, you can issue them with a 14 day notice to remedy. This gives them two weeks to sort it out.
Do not stop paying rent while you wait for the landlord to repair something. While withholding rent isn’t allowed, tenants can try to negotiate a temporary rent reduction with their landlord.
6. From July rental properties must be insulated
Ceiling and underfloor insulation will be compulsory in all rental homes from July 1, 2019 (where it is reasonably practicable to install). Landlords who don’t comply may face a penalty of up to $4,000.
All new tenancy agreements must now come with an insulation statement. The landlord needs to be able to tell you whether the place is insulated, where the insulation is, what type and what condition it’s in, so a tenant can make an informed decision about whether to move in.
There are a handful of exceptions to the insulation rules, like a house built on a concrete slab, which makes underfloor insulation impractical to install.
Tenancy Services are part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. They provide information to landlords and tenants, and manage the disputes process, including self-resolution, FastTrack Resolution, mediation or Tenancy Tribunal hearings. For free information or advice, give them a call on 0800 836 262.
article by Gracie Allum – realestate.co.nz
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