Communtity Law Manual | Tenancy & housing | Your rights and obligations as a social housing tenant

Social housing: Tenants in state and community housing

Your rights and obligations as a social housing tenant

Do I have the same rights as tenants who have private landlords?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 4

Yes, Housing New Zealand and community housing providers have to follow the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, just like landlords in the private rental market. See the previous sections of this chapter for your minimum rights under that Act.

If you rent from your local council, they’re also bound by the Act, just like other landlords.

What are my obligations if my situation changes?

Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Act 1992, s 115(1)

You have to tell the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) if your situation changes in a way that could affect whether you still qualify for social housing or how much rent you should be paying – for example, if your income or the number of people in your household changes.

If the number of people in your household changes (for example, if you have a new partner move in or you have a new baby), you’ll also need to contact your housing provider, such as Housing NZ.

What happens if I don’t tell MSD about a change in my situation?

If a change in your situation affects whether you qualify for social housing and you don’t tell the Ministry of Social Development, you could be receiving social housing when you’re not entitled to it, or you could be paying less rent than you’re supposed to be. This could result in you owing a debt to MSD or in them investigating you for fraud.

MSD will investigate suspected fraud in relation to social housing in the same way as they investigate suspected benefit fraud (see “Penalties, investigations and overpayments” in the chapter “Dealing with Work and Income”).

How do I ask to be transferred to a different social housing property?

If you’re not happy with your current social housing property and want to transfer, contact your housing provider (Housing NZ or the community housing provider).

Who’s responsible for maintenance and repairs?

As your landlord, Housing NZ or the community housing provider is responsible for maintenance and repairs.

How much rent will I pay?

Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Act 1992, ss 104-116

This will depend on how much your household earns. If your income is below a certain level you may qualify for a lower level of rent, called “income-related rent”. This will be set at no more than 25 percent of your household income.

How often will my rent be reviewed?

Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Act 1992, s 116

The amount of rent you pay will be reviewed once a year by the Ministry of Social Development.

What happens if MSD decide I no longer qualify for social housing?

Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Act 1992, s 117(1)(b)

If MSD decide you no longer qualify for social housing, and you’re on an indefinite (periodic) tenancy, they can give you 90 days’ notice that you’ll need to leave and find other accommodation. If you’re on a fixed-term tenancy, your tenancy will end at the end of the period stated in your tenancy agreement.

You can challenge MSD’s decision by asking for a review by a Benefit Review Committee. If you’re not happy with the Committee’s decision you can then appeal to the Social Security Appeal Authority (see “Challenging Work and Income decisions: Reviews and appeals” in the chapter “Dealing with Work and Income”).

What if I have a dispute with my tenancy manager?

If you have a dispute with your tenancy manager from Housing NZ or your community housing provider – for example, if you’re not happy with their response to a problem you’ve raised – you can ask to speak to their team manager. You may need to get the contact details from your tenancy manager. Remember to keep copies of all letters and to make written notes of all conversations you have both with the tenancy manager and their manager.

If you’re not happy with the team manager’s response, you can take the dispute to the Tenancy Tribunal, the same as if you have a dispute with a private landlord (see “Resolving tenancy disputes” in this chapter).

Can I have someone represent me in my dealings with the landlord?

Yes. If you’re in a Housing NZ property, you’ll need to complete a Privacy Waiver form, which you can get from Housing NZ (go to www.hnzc.co.nz). If you’re renting from a community housing provider, ask them whether they have a particular authorisation form for you to fill in.

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