Tenancy and housing: overview

If you’re renting your home, you have some minimum legal protections, the same as you do with a job. Your legal rights don’t just depend on whatever agreement you have with your landlord, whether written or unwritten. As a tenant, you have some basic rights. For example, how often the landlord can increase the rent, when they can come inside your place, and how many months’ notice they have to give you if they want you to move out.

These minimum protections are in the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 – the main piece of law that deals with tenants and landlords. This chapter tells you about those protections, and it also tells you what your legal obligations are. It includes information about:

  • when you’re covered by the minimum protections for tenants and when you’re not
  • signing an agreement with a landlord, and what has to be in the agreement
  • bond, rent and other payments you might have to make
  • the ongoing rights and responsibilities you and your landlord have while you’re living in your place
  • when and how tenancies can be ended
  • resolving problems with your landlord, including by going to mediation or to the Tenancy Tribunal.

Who’s who

  • Tenant – The “tenant” is you – the person renting the place from the landlord.
  • Landlord – The landlord is the person or organisation you rent your place from – they’re the owner. A landlord can be an individual person, or it can be a private company, a trust, a government organisation like Housing New Zealand, or a local city council. But sometimes you might deal with an agent who works for the landlord, rather than with the landlord personally – for example, the landlord might employ a property management business to deal with tenants.
  • Flatmate – This isn’t a legal term, but it’s the word sometimes used to describe someone who’s not a tenant of the property but who shares a place and shares the rent with the tenant. For more details, see “Tenants and flatmates: Who’s covered when you’re sharing the rent”.
  • Tenancy Services is the government agency that deals with tenants and landlords; it’s part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). You can get information from Tenancy Services about your rights as a tenant – phone them on 0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62).

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