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Living in your house or flat: Rights and obligations

Damage and repairs

Who’s responsible for damage and repairs?

  • You (the tenant) are not responsible for damage or wear that happens through normal use over time – called “fair wear and tear.”
  • You’re also not responsible for damage that’s outside your control, like storm damage.
  • You’re responsible for fixing any damage that you or a guest causes carelessly or deliberately.

The amount you have to pay for intentional or careless damage is limited. The maximum you have to pay is the landlord’s insurance excess or up to the amount of four weeks’ rent, whichever of these amounts is lower.

Who’s responsible for “fair wear and tear” from normal use over time?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 40, 41, 45, 49A

Case: Tenancy Tribunal 4081393

You, the tenant, are not responsible for damage that happens through normal use over time – called “fair wear and tear”. For example, if the carpet in the hallway starts to develop holes just through normal use, you don’t have to replace it. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to keep the place in a reasonable state of repair.

The landlord’s responsibility for maintaining the building includes keeping the outside of the building clean, if it’s dirty because of normal factors like dust and dirt carried by the wind. You the tenant will only be responsible for cleaning the outside if you’ve somehow contributed to it being dirty.

Who’s responsible if I accidentally damage something?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 41, 49B

If you damage something carelessly, then you’ll have to pay the landlord’s insurance excess (see below), up to the amount of four weeks’ rent. An example would be if you left something cooking on the stove top and it causes a fire in the kitchen.

If a friend or other guest causes damage carelessly you’ll also be responsible for the landlord’s insurance excess up to the amount of four weeks’ rent.

If you or a guest at your place deliberately or intentionally causes damage then you the tenant will have to pay for the damage.

If your landlord takes you to the Tenancy Tribunal to get you to pay for repairs, the landlord will have to show that the damage happened while you were the tenant and that it’s not just fair wear and tear (that is, it’s not just from normal use over time). If the landlord does show this, then you’ll have to satisfy the Tribunal that the damage wasn’t careless or deliberate. For example, if something was damaged by accident, but you took reasonable steps to prevent the accident from happening, it might not be considered “careless”.

Paying the insurance “excess”

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 13A, 45

The amount that the insurance company makes the policy holder pay before the insurance company starts to pay out anything for the insurance claim is called the “excess”.

The landlord must give you a copy of their insurance policy (which will include the amount of the excess) if you ask for it. All tenancy agreements also have to say what the insurance excess is.

Who’s responsible if one of my friends cause damage?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 41, 49B

If a visitor at your place causes damage carelessly then you, the tenant, will have to pay the landlord’s insurance excess, up to the amount of four weeks’ rent. An example of this is could be that a friend is staying at your place one evening while you’re out, and they leave your heater too close to the curtains and cause a fire.

If a visitor at your place deliberately causes damage (known as “intentional” damage) then you, the tenant, are responsible for fixing the damage.

You’re not responsible for careless or deliberate damage caused by someone who’s there without your permission (for example, if someone breaks into your place). But the law assumes that if someone is at your place they’re there with your permission, unless you prove that you did everything reasonable to stop them being there.

How do I get my landlord to do repairs and maintenance?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 40, 41, 45

You have to let the landlord know as soon as possible if you find any damage to the property or if repairs are needed.

If the repair is serious and urgent, or there’s a safety or health risk, and the damage isn’t your fault, you can get the repairs done and then claim the cost back from the landlord. But you have to make a reasonable attempt to contact the landlord first. You can’t deduct the cost of repairs from the rent unless you have the landlord’s permission or an order from the Tenancy Tribunal.

You can take any disagreements about repairs to the free mediation service provided by the government’s tenancy unit, Tenancy Services. If you can’t reach an agreement there, the Tenancy Tribunal can make an order for repair work to be done, or paid for, or both (see: “Problems with your landlord: What you can do”).

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Tenancy and housing

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Tenancy Services – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)

MBIE’s Tenancy Services section provides information to tenants and to landlords. It also provides dispute-resolution services.

Website: www.tenancy.govt.nz
Tenancy advice: 0800 83 62 62 (0800 TENANCY). Free translation services are available.
Bond enquiries: 0800 737 666. Free translation services are available.

Ministry of Social Development – Work and Income (WINZ)

Work and Income assess eligibility for social housing provided by Kāinga Ora and other registered community housing providers. WINZ also calculates income-related rent for social housing and conducts tenancy reviews.

Website: www.workandincome.govt.nz/housing/index.html
Phone: 0800 559 009
Email: www.workandincome.govt.nz/housing/nowhere-to-stay/index.html
Email: www.workandincome.govt.nz/housing/find-a-house/who-can-get-public-housing.html
Email: www.workandincome.govt.nz/housing/find-a-house/apply-for-public-housing.html

Kāinga Ora (formerly Housing New Zealand)

Kāinga Ora manages New Zealand’s public housing and places people in public homes.  Kāinga Ora’s website provides information for existing and prospective tenants.

Website: www.kaingaora.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 801 601
Office locations: kaingaora.govt.nz/our-locations
When to contact Kāinga Ora vs Work and Income resource: kaingaora.govt.nz/tenants-and-communities/renting-a-home

Note: to apply for a Kāinga Ora home, you need to contact Work and Income – “Ministry of Social Development – Work and Income (WINZ)” above.

Tenancy Tribunal

The Tenancy Tribunal can help you if you have an issue with a tenant or landlord that you can’t solve yourself. The Tribunal will hear both sides of the argument and can issue an order that is legally binding.

Information on how to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal: www.tenancy.govt.nz/disputes/Tribunal/making-an-application

Aratohu Tenant Advocacy

The Aratohu Tenant Advocacy is a comprehensive online resource that provides support and guidance to tenants and their advocates.

Website: tenant.aratohu.nz

Tenants Protection Association Auckland (TPA)

The Tenants Protection Association provides advocacy and support to renters in Auckland.

Website: tpaauckland.org.nz
Phone: 09 360 1473

Manawatū Tenants’ Union

The Manawatū Tenants’ Union provides advocacy and support to renters in the Manawatū region.

Website: www.mtu.org.nz
Email: info@mtu.org.nz
Phone: 06 357 7435

Renters United

Renters United is an organisation for renters in Wellington. They focus on organising renters and campaigning to make renting better for everyone.

Website: rentersunited.org.nz
Online contact form: rentersunited.org.nz/contact
Instagram: www.instagram.com/fairrentnow
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rentersunitednz

Community Housing Regulatory Authority

The Community Housing Regulatory Authority registers and regulates community housing providers.

Website: chra.hud.govt.nz
Email: CHRA@hud.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 141 411

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)

CAB provides free, confidential and independent information and advice.  See CAB’s website for valuable information on a range of topics.

Website: www.cab.org.nz
Phone: 0800 367 222
Facebook: www.facebook.com/citizensadvicenz

Find your local CAB office: www.cab.org.nz/find-a-cab

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