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Communtity Law Manual | Tenancy & housing | Living in your house or flat: Rights and obligations

Living in your house or flat: Rights and obligations

Your use and enjoyment of the house or flat

Your rights as the tenant: Use and enjoyment

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 38, 45(1), 109

As the tenant, you have the right to the “quiet enjoyment” of the house or flat. The landlord (and people who work for or represent the landlord) can’t interfere with your reasonable peace, comfort and privacy in using the property. If your landlord interferes with these rights in a way that amounts to harassment, the Tenancy Tribunal can order them to pay you up to $2,000.

The landlord has to make sure none of their other tenants disturb you (from the flat next door, for example).

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 45(1); Residential Tenancies (Smoke Alarms and Insulation) Regulations 2016, reg 5

The landlord has to provide and maintain locks to keep the place secure, and they can’t change the locks without your permission. They have to provide smoke alarms (although you have to change the batteries), and they also have to provide an adequate water collection and storage system in areas where there’s no mains water supply.

Example: What amounts to interference with
your quiet enjoyment?

Case: [2017] NZHC 2661

The tenant had one of four joined Housing NZ (now Kāinga Ora) units. There were four carparking spaces, with a sign saying: “Tenants parking only”, though the spaces weren’t allocated to any particular unit.

The tenant complained to Housing NZ about tenants in other units taking more than one space and also allowing non-tenants to park in these spaces. This meant the tenant couldn’t easily turn his car around and he therefore had to back out of the driveway rather than driving out forwards. The tenant complained several times to Housing NZ, but wasn’t happy with its responses.

The tenant took the dispute to the Tenancy Tribunal, claiming the landlord had permitted a breach of his reasonable peace, comfort or privacy. But the Tribunal found the tenant hadn’t proved this claim. The tenant then appealed to the District Court, but the judge agreed with the Tenancy Tribunal, and decided that the tenant not being able to turn his car around wasn’t serious enough to amount to a breach of his quiet enjoyment of his property.

Your rights as the tenant: Making minor changes and installing fibre

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 42A, 42B

From February 2021, you can make minor changes to your flat with your landlord’s permission. They can’t say no, as long as the change won’t seriously damage the property or it can be easily undone. A minor change could be installing a baby gate, picture hooks, or making furniture earthquake-proof.

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 45B

Your landlord has to allow you to get a fibre internet connection installed free of charge, and they need to work with you to ensure it’s done within a reasonable period of time. They can only refuse if it would significantly affect the structure of the building, or make it impractical to do any major renovations they want to start within 90 days of your request. Fibre installation is free if you’re in the fibre area. You can check your eligibility at the Chorus search tool.

Your obligations: How you use your place while you’re living there

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 40(2), 42, 46

While you’re renting your place, you must not:

  • cause any damage to the property or chattels, whether intentionally or carelessly, or allow anyone else to cause damage
  • use the place to do something illegal, or allow someone else to do something illegal there
  • disturb your neighbours
  • have more people living in the place than you’re allowed under your tenancy agreement
  • attach any fixtures that are more than minor changes (these are things that are fixed in position, like heat pumps, panel heaters, built-in wardrobes and clothes lines) or make any renovations (like painting) or any alterations to the place, unless the tenancy agreement allows this or the landlord has given you written permission (the landlord can’t refuse you permission unreasonably)
  • change the locks without the landlord’s permission
  • interfere with or block fire escapes.

    Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 16A

    Note: If your landlord is going to be out of the country for more than three weeks, they have to provide a representative (an “agent”) for you to deal with – for example, if you need to get repairs done.

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