FAQs: A guide to renting in New Zealand

Vesna Wells : 12th Jun 2017
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Have a query about renting? Here are some of the most common questions asked by tenants.

Before you move in

  • The initial inspection
  • Bond
  • Utility connections
  • Contents insurance

During a tenancy

  • Routine inspections
  • Access for tradespeople
  • Emergency repairs
  • Rent payments
  • Keys
  • Damage to the property
  • Noise complaints
  • Garden maintenance
  • Driveways
  • Sub-letting
  • Use of property
  • Your safety
  • Ventilation and insulation laws
  • Smoke alarms
  • Rent reviews
  • Body corporate rules

After the tenancy

  • Final inspection
  • Moving out checklist
  • Need more information?

 

The initial inspection:

The initial inspection report provides the blueprint for the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy.  Your property manager will go through the house and highlight any issues, like existing stains on a carpet or marks on a wall. This report must be an honest and fair reflection of the condition of the property. Down the road, if you decide to move out, you can refer back to this document.

A good property manager will prefer to conduct the initial inspection with the tenant present. However, if a convenient time cannot be found for both parties to be present, the tenant can take their own notes and photos.

 

Bond: 

Bond is money that a landlord can ask tenants to pay as security when they move into a property. This is usually paid before you move in. Your landlord or property manager are then required to lodge the bond within 23 working days with Tenancy Services (a division of Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment). Tenancy Services hold the bond in trust until the end of the tenancy.

Once Tenancy Services has received the bond, they will write to the property manager and to you (the tenant) confirming that they are holding the bond money. A bond number will be issued for both parties’ records.

If you pay your rent in full and take care of the property, you should receive a full refund at the end of your tenancy. Otherwise, your bond can be used to cover costs such as unpaid rent or damage to property.

Important notes about bond: Your bond must not exceed four weeks’ rent. Your bond must be lodged with the Tenancy Services – you landlord or property manager cannot hold this during your tenancy. 

 

Utility connections: 

Find out what utility connections need to me made to the property, like power, gas, internet and phone. You can sort these yourself, or employ a free service like realestate.co.nz/move who will organise for your utilities to be moved to the new house on your behalf. 

 

Contents insurance:

It is highly recommended that tenants have contents insurance for their possessions in case of a burglary, fire, flood or any other issue. The decision or whether to have insurance or not is up to the tenant.

 

 

Routine inspections: 

Most professional property managers conduct routine inspections on a three-monthly rotation. These inspections are to advise the owner of the property of any maintenance issues. The tenant will also be advised of anything that may need their attention. Property managers notify tenants in advance of their inspections (typically the week before) and ask that the home be presented in a reasonably clean and tidy condition, as it will make the inspection easier for noting any maintenance issues. 

Tenants can be present during any routine inspections. If you are not present, you can leave a note or send an email highlighting any issues you believe the property manager should be aware of. In between inspections, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact your property manager when issues arise.

Most professional property management companies use software to generate their routine inspection reports. These reports are prepared for the landlord and provide pictures of the property. Good property managers are respectful of tenant privacy and only take photographs that show the property and its condition. 

Notice before entering a property

Landlords must give tenants at least 48 hours’ notice before an inspection. They can’t give notice more than 14 days before the inspection. Inspections must take place between 8am and 7pm. Your landlord or property manager shouldn’t enter your property without giving 48 hours’ notice unless there’s an emergency, like a fire or flood. If your landlord or property manager has to enter your property to fix something, they are still required to give 24 hours’ notice. These repairs should be done between 8am and 7pm.

It’s your home

The landlord owns the property, but while you are renting it is your home. This means your landlord and property manager must respect your peace and privacy (this is called quiet enjoyment). They will do this by giving you the appropriate amount of notice before entering the property. However, landlords don’t need to give notice to come onto the property (the land). This usually happens when the landlord has agreed to do things (like mow the lawns for the tenants). The landlord must not use force, or threat of force, to enter or attempt to enter the property while the tenant, or anyone with the tenant’s permission, is inside. 

 

Tradespeople:

From time to time, access may be required for maintenance and repairs. Your property manager will arrange access for the right tradespeople to attend. It is important to note that tradespeople work regular business hours and will not work after hours unless it is an emergency.

Good property managers have a team of carefully selected tradespeople that they trust. These tradespeople should also understand the importance of respecting your home, your privacy and getting the job done efficiently and to a good standard. 

 

Emergency repairs:

Issues may arise from time to time after hours. Most property management companies have procedures to provide 24/7 assistance to tenants. To minimise after-hours call outs, it is important for tenants to work out whether it is an emergency by using good old common sense:

  • Fire – please call 111 and then notify your property manager when you and all occupants are safe. 
  • Electrical issues – hissing, sparking or no power that is not as a result of a localised outage or blown fuse in the fuse box. If a tenant notices any suspicious electrical issues, faults or loose or live wires, it is important to call your property manager urgently. 
  • Gas – smell of gas or no gas for heating, cooking or showers.
  • Hot water system – if there is no hot water and there is an infinity hot water system at the property, it is important to check the pilot light first if easily and safely accessible. These pilot lights can usually be relit if easily accessible and there is no smell of gas.
  • Sewerage – blocked toilet or burst pipes.
  • Water ingress – water coming in from the roof or any other part of the property and causing damage. Please note that if there is a big storm, it is unlikely that a tradesperson would be able to attend as there is an obligation to also keep them safe. The tenant should try (and only if it is safe) to mitigate damage as much as possible until a tradesperson can safely attend the property. 
  • Drainage – any burst water main anywhere in the property or its surrounds or any significant leaks from e.g. washing machines or dishwashers etc. 
  • Glass – broken external window or door that causes any security issues.
  • Breach of security – anything that impacts on the safety of the occupants or the property. 
  • Storm damage – notify the property manager of any damage once the storm has passed and it is safe for tradespeople to attend.

 

Rent payments:

Rent is due in accordance with your tenancy agreement. Property managers reconcile/check rent payments daily to ensure that payments are being received in accordance with the tenancy agreement. Set up an automatic payment to pay the rent the day before it is due, so it can clear overnight. It is important to contact the property manager if there are any issues with the rent payment, so they can work with the tenant and inform the owner. Many owners have mortgages on their properties and rely on the rent to make their payments.

 

Keys:

As the tenant, you should keep your keys with you at all times. A tenant may wish to make an arrangement with someone they trust to keep a spare key for them. An alternative suggestion is to have a lock box hidden carefully at the property for a spare key. If you find yourself locked out during office hours, your property manager may be able to assist you. If it is after hours or a weekend, you will need to arrange a locksmith at your own expense and let their property manager know via email, text or phone call. A new set of keys will need to be provided to the property manager when a lock has needed to be changed.

 

Damage:

As the tenant, you are required to tell your property manager straight away if something needs to be repaired or maintained, regardless of who is responsible for causing the damage. Most issues become worse over time and it is best to attend to problems as soon as they are identified. If a tenant or a landlord is required to fix something but doesn’t, the other party can issue them with a 14-day notice to remedy. This gives them 14 days to get the work done. Tenants can’t refuse to pay rent while waiting for the landlord to fix something, but can try to negotiate a temporary rent reduction with their landlord.

Noise:

It is important for tenants to be mindful that some neighbours will be more sensitive to noise than others. Noise should always be kept to a minimum if possible. Should there be a problem with noise from others in the neighbourhood, the tenant is encouraged to deal with this issue in a neighbourly way, by asking for it to be turned down. If not, there are Council regulations that detail what is acceptable regarding noise and what is not. If the property causing the noise problems is also owned by your landlord, you can speak to your landlord about the issue. 

 

Gardens:

Weeding of gardens is typically the tenant’s responsibility, if not stated otherwise in the Tenancy Agreement. Lawns are also typically a tenant’s responsibility unless otherwise stated in the Tenancy Agreement. Tenants should ensure that lawns are mowed regularly using a lawn mower (not a weed eater). If you do not want to tend to the garden yourself, you can hire a gardener at your own expense.

 

Driveways:

It is important to make sure that cars do not drip oil on the driveways or in the garage. If drips do occur, then an appropriate degreasing solution to remedy the spill can be used.

 

Sub-letting:

Sub-letting is usually not permitted. For example, letting out a spare room on a temporary or permanent basis for extra rent or otherwise, is not permitted without your property manager’s permission. That means no AirBnB. It is important to contact your property manager if circumstances change and there is a need for a flatmate or additional people begin living in the home.

 

Use of property:

Unless agreed to otherwise, your residential property should not be used for commercial, industrial or any other use. If, as a tenant, your circumstances change, you should have a discussion with your professional property manager. 

 

Your safety is paramount:

Your safety is a priority. You should notify your property manager with anything that you notice around the property that could be unsafe. For example (but not limited to):

  • Slippery paths
  • Exposed wiring
  • Gas smell
  • Damage to pathways or paving
  • Wasp nests
  • Rats, mice or other vermin in the property
  • Loose floorboards or flooring that appears to be giving way under carpet or lino
  • Loose balcony rails or glass
  • Loose or damaged steps
  • Loose or faulty locks, entry doors or screens
  • Broken or cracked windows
  • Damage electrical outlets.

 

Ventilation and insulation:

There is a requirement for rental properties to now provide an insulation disclosure statement. This became a requirement in the Residential Tenancies (Smoke Alarms and Insulation Regulations) 2016. Insulation statements have been compulsory on all tenancy agreements that are signed since 1 July 2016. The landlord must disclose whether there is insulation in the rental home, where it is, what type and what condition it is in, so tenants can make an informed decision. 

Ceiling and under-floor insulation will be compulsory in all rental homes from 1 July 2019, where it is reasonably practicable to install. It must comply with the regulations and be safely installed. A landlord who fails to comply with the regulations is committing an unlawful act and may be liable for a penalty of up to $4,000.

Some landlords have already installed insulation in their properties. Some properties are also fitted with heat pumps or other forms of heating. In the winter months, it is tempting not to ventilate the property to keep the heat in. Unfortunately, not ventilating the property can damage soft furnishings like curtains, blinds and paint. Not ventilating a property can also cause mould. Please ensure you ventilate the property adequately to avoid moisture build up and damage being caused to the property.

If you have a heat pump, use the dehumidify function. You can set the heat pump to dehumidify to ensure ventilation and a healthy home environment. If you do not have a heat pump you can open windows to let air in or you may prefer to use a stand-alone dehumidifier. Remember to clean the filters to avoid damage to the machines.

 

Smoke alarms:

Each rental property must be fitted with photoelectric or hard wired smoke alarms. This too became a requirement under the Residential Tenancies (Smoke Alarms and Insulation Regulations) 2016. 

It is important that these smoke alarms are not interfered with as they are there to save lives. For example, it is not ok to use the battery of the smoke alarm for another purpose. It is the tenant’s responsibility to immediately report to the landlord if they suspect that the smoke alarm is not working.

Landlords have certain responsibilities for smoke alarms and their installation:

Smoke alarms installed at the premises must be qualifying smoke alarms. Qualifying smoke alarms are smoke alarms that meet the following requirements:

  1. the alarm is fully operational and otherwise in full working order, with no faults, defects or damage;
  2. the alarm is installed in a location that accords with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. The alarm’s recommended replacement date must not have passed.
  4. Unless the alarm is a hard-wired alarm:
  1. the alarm’s recommended replacement date must be displayed on the alarm.
  2. the alarm must be a photoelectric alarm.
  3. the manufacturer’s instructions for the alarm must include a certification, or other statement, to the effect that the alarm has been manufactured in accordance with –
  1. AS3786-1993; or
  2. an equivalent smoke alarm standard specified in the certification or other statement.

If the alarm requires batteries for any purpose (including backup batteries if the alarm is hard-wired), the alarm must contain all necessary batteries, which must be all compliant batteries; and

If the alarm is a hard-wired alarm, the alarm must be connected to an electricity supply as necessary.

In these premises, the landlord must ensure that there is at least one qualifying smoke alarm installed in the sleeping space or otherwise at the premises within three meters of the entrance (or main entrance) to the sleeping space. 

This applies to every storey or level of the premises on which there is one or more habitable spaces. 

There must be at least one qualifying smoke alarm installed on the storey or level in the habitable space or in at least one of the habitable spaces as the case may be. 

A sleeping space means a space that is for use, or can otherwise reasonably be expected to be used, as a bedroom or other sleeping space.

Tenants have responsibilities too:

Tenants must replace worn-out smoke alarm batteries.

While the smoke alarm remains installed at the premises during the tenancy, the tenant must replace, with the compliant battery, any battery contained in the alarm would be a qualifying smoke alarm but for the battery being worn out or is designed to permit the replacement of the battery.

Where the tenant is required to replace the worn out battery, the landlord is not in breach of the Residential Tenancies (Smoke Alarm and Insulation) Regulations 2016 just because the battery is worn out or has not been replaced with a compliant battery.

If you notice any beeping or if you think that the alarm may not be working, you should notify your property manager immediately.

 

Rent reviews:

From time to time and in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, the rent for a property may be increased. The rent should always be in accordance with market rent and property managers will typically consult with the owner. Rent needs to be a fair reflection of market rent.

Landlords can only increase rent:

  • after the first 180 days of the tenancy
  • provided the increase is not within 180 days of the last increase.

A landlord must give a tenant no less than 60 days’ written notice of a rent increase.

The notice must be served in writing, say how much the rent is increasing by and the day the increased rent is due.

A landlord and tenant can agree to an increase of the rent (outside of the usual 180-day period) if the landlord has:

  • improved the property, which increases its value and benefits the tenant 
  • improved facilities or services provided to the tenant 
  • changed the tenancy agreement to benefit the tenant.

When lawfully increasing the rent, the landlord may ask the tenant to pay extra bond money based on the number of weeks’ bond charged in the tenancy agreement.

For example, the rent goes up by $10 per week. The tenant paid 3 weeks’ rent as bond money. So the landlord can ask for an extra $30 to be added to the bond.

For a fixed-term tenancy, landlords can only increase rent if there is a provision to do so in the fixed-term tenancy agreement.

 

Fixed term tenancy:

Fixed term agreements are for a set period and can not be broken, unless the owner (via their property manager) gives their permission for you to do so or there has been a significant change in your circumstances in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. You should contact your property manager and discuss your circumstances.

 

 

Periodic tenancy:

If you are looking to end a periodic tenancy, there is a requirement of 21 days notice and for the notice to be in writing. 

As soon as a property manager receives your notice to vacate, they will look to market the property for rent. A property manager will aim to have a new tenant move in shortly after you vacate the property to minimise any loss of rent to the owner.

Property managers will work with tenants regarding viewing times. Should there be any time during business hours or on the weekend that is not suitable, you should let your property manager know. The aim is to be reasonable and understanding. Property managers will be grateful if the property can be presented in a reasonably clean and tidy condition for the viewings as it will assist them to rent the property quickly and hopefully reduce the number of times they have to inconvenience you with viewings. 

Property managers should attend with any prospective tenants and will respect your privacy as much as possible.

 

Body corporate properties:

If you are living in a body corporate complex, there will be certain rules that everyone in the complex will need to abide by, whether they are owners, tenants or occupants. You will be provided with the Body Corporate operational rules as part of your tenancy agreement. Please take the time to read these as there will be information about parking, rubbish collection and other important residential matters that you will wish to know about. Should the rules change during your tenancy, the owner is obliged to let the property manager know and they will notify you.

 

Final inspection:

At the final inspection, a property manager will record the condition of the property and compare it to the initial inspection (fair wear and tear excepted). It is important that a property is left in a reasonably clean and tidy condition for the next tenants. If you need assistance with cleaning, your property manager may know of a good cleaning contractor to help you. The services the contractor provides would be at your own cost. We have provided the attached sample checklist for cleaning and vacating the property to assist in the moving out process. Each property management company will have their own and it is important to familiarise yourself with those requirements. 

Moving out checklist:

The aim of the following checklist is a guide to leaving the property in a reasonably clean and tidy condition.

Your property manager should meet you onsite on the day of moving out to complete a final inspection report. The aim is to enable a smooth vacating process and successful transfer of your tenancy bond that is being held in trust by Tenancy Services.

Before you move out remember to:

  • clean the kitchen sink and benches
  • clean the oven inside and out
  • clean the kitchen cupboards inside and out
  • clean the dishwasher (where provided)
  • clean the bathtub, shower, basin and toilet
  • clean underneath the oven and fridge
  • clean light shades and light switches
  • wash walls and ceilings, particularly in the kitchen and bathroom
  • wash window sills, including the water channels on any aluminium windows and doors
  • wash windows inside and out
  • wash all lino and non-carpeted floors
  • clean all carpets
  • remove all household and garden rubbish as well as personal belongings, including from under the house or in sheds, garages or attic
  • tidy and weed the garden, weed spray around any paths or driveways
  • mow lawns and sweep paths

Don't forget to:

  • arrange for your electricity, gas, phone and internet to be disconnected
  • arrange for your final power and phone accounts to go to your new address
  • tell your friends and family your new address and phone number
  • fill out a change of address form from your local Post Shop
  • lock the house or flat when you leave and return your keys to us
  • pay your rent up to the date that you leave - call us if you have any questions.

Please note that if the home is not left in a clean and tidy you may be charged some or all of the cost of bringing it up to a reasonably clean and tidy condition and rentable standard for the next tenants.

Need more information?

Your property manager is a good source of information on renting and each property management office will have their own requirements. Tenancy Services provide great information on renting - 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262) or you may prefer to visit their website - www.tenancy.govt.nz.