Home | Browse Topics | Prisoner's rights | Housing and debt | Rental housing

Prisoner's rights

Housing and debt

Rental housing

If you are renting your house, you must keep paying rent unless you agree with the landlord to transfer or end (“terminate”) your tenancy. The best course of action depends on whether you are renting from Kāinga Ora or privately and whether anyone else needs to continue living in the house.

For more information, see the chapter “Tenancy and Housing” in the Community Law Manual

What should I do if I’m a Kāinga Ora tenant?

If you live on your own, the tenancy will terminate and arrangements will be made for a suitable notice period and the removal of your personal belongings and furniture. Your tenancy agreement sets out some of this information for you.

If your partner or children live there too, you can talk to MSD (Work and Income – Social Housing – 0800 559 009) and your tenancy manager. You will need to apply for the tenancy to be transferred into your family member’s name. Whether or not this happens depends on the age of your children and the suitability of the housing now that you’re not living there.

If you are over 65 you should call the MSD Senior Services Unit on 0800 552 002.

What should I do if I’m renting from a private landlord?

You’re responsible for paying rent to your landlord if your name is on the tenancy agreement, whether you’re living there or not. This means you are legally responsible for any rent that isn’t paid and damage that occurs to the property.

Unless your family still needs to stay in the house and can continue paying rent, it’s best to try to end the tenancy or transfer it to someone else. How you do this depends on if you have a periodic tenancy or a fixed-term tenancy. Check your tenancy agreement to find out what your tenancy is.

Some tenancy agreements prohibit you from transferring or assigning your tenancy to someone else. However, from 11 February 2021, landlords are required to consider a request for assignment (“transferring” your tenancy) regardless of what it says in your tenancy agreement.

If your family can keep paying the rent, then you may want to keep your name on the tenancy and carry on with rent payments as normal. Your partner may be eligible for government assistance (for example, Work and Income accommodation assistance, or Working for Families tax credits).

For more information, see the chapter “Dealing with Work and Income” in the Community Law Manual

How do I find out what type of tenancy I have?

If you don’t know whether you have a periodic or fixed-term tenancy, check your tenancy agreement. If there is no written tenancy agreement, or if your fixed-term agreement expired and you didn’t sign a new one, then you will be on a periodic tenancy.

You can also ask your landlord.

How can I end a periodic tenancy (tenancy with no fixed-end date)?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 50, 51

If you were living on your own, you can end the tenancy by giving 28 days’ notice in writing to the landlord (unless they agree on a shorter notice period). You must pay rent for the 28 days and return the key to the landlord. If you don’t, the landlord can charge you for the cost of changing the locks.

If you live with other people and the tenancy is in your name, then talk to your landlord about what is going to happen. You might be able to transfer the tenancy to the people who are still living in the house. The landlord must consider your request to transfer the tenancy and can’t say no without providing a good reason.

Once the landlord has agreed, you will need to fill out a Change of Tenant form and send it to Tenancy Services. When you fill out the form, make sure that all other tenants and the landlord sign it, and keep a copy for your records. If you don’t transfer the tenancy out of your name, then you will be responsible for costs if the house is damaged or if the people staying there stop paying rent.

What if I have a fixed-term tenancy (with a set end date)?

Your tenancy can end early if your landlord agrees to assign or transfer it to someone else, or if you apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for an Order to End Tenancy Early.

If you live with flatmates or family and the tenancy is in your name, talk to your landlord about what will to happen. You may be able to transfer the tenancy to the people who are still living in the house. If the landlord agrees to this you will need to fill in a Change of Tenant form and send it to Tenancy Services.

If you live alone, you can ask your landlord to either end the tenancy early or agree to you looking for someone else to take over the tenancy. The landlord doesn’t have to agree to either request, but if you find a new tenant yourself then your landlord must consider your request to transfer. They need to have a good reason if they choose to decline and need provide these reasons to you in writing.

The landlord may ask you to pay the cost of finding a new tenant or attach costs to assigning the new tenant you found to the property, but these costs must be the actual costs of moving in the new tenant. As of 11 February 2020, landlords must provide a breakdown showing what they spent the money on.

If you don’t transfer the tenancy out of your name, then you will be responsible for costs if the house is damaged or if the people staying there stop paying rent.

Is there any way to get out of a fixed-term tenancy early?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 66

If the landlord doesn’t agree to ending the tenancy early, you can go to the Tenancy Tribunal and ask to be released from your tenancy on the ground of hardship. The hardship must be because of unforeseen circumstances – and going to prison will not always count. You must be able to show that your hardship will be greater than the landlord’s hardship if the tenancy does not continue. You might have to pay the landlord some compensation for ending the tenancy early.

Speak with your lawyer or contact your nearest Community Law Centre for advice on whether you are able to end your tenancy early.

What happens if my tenancy ends and my whānau don’t have a new place to live?

You and your family need to find new accommodation before your tenancy ends. If you’re having trouble finding somewhere new or can’t afford new accommodation, then you can seek assistance from:

  • Work and Income (WINZ) – Ministry of Social Development (MSD)
  • the City Council
  • accommodation support agencies
  • local housing providers (though you usually need a MSD referral).

How do I get my personal belongings and furniture back?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 62-62B

You should try to arrange for someone to pick up your belongings (“property” or “goods”) during the notice period.

If you can’t arrange for someone to pick up your property within the notice period, or the landlord has agreed to terminate the tenancy immediately, then the landlord can move your property. You should try to come to an agreement about storing your property with your landlord. Otherwise they can throw out anything that would go rotten or that would cost more to store than it would sell for.

No matter what, they must take any of your personal documents to the police.

Even if you don’t have an agreement about storage, the landlord must store any goods that have a value above what the cost of storing it would be. The landlord has to store these goods for at least 35 days. You can claim these back from the landlord by providing a receipt of the goods and documents you want. The landlord is allowed to charge you for costs of moving and storage before returning your belongings. If you don’t claim the goods within 35 days the landlord can sell them.

What if I can’t reach an agreement with my landlord?

If you have a dispute with your landlord over the return of your bond, removing your belongings, or ending your tenancy, try talking to Tenancy Services (0800 TENANCY) about the problem. You should also speak to your local Community Law Centre lawyer.

You can also make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal. You will need to get a form by contacting a Community Law Centre or Tenancy Services (0800 TENANCY). There is a fee of about $20.44 to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal.

What is a phone mediation?

Often there is a phone mediation after you apply to the Tenancy Tribunal. This is a chance for you and your landlord to talk on the phone, with a mediator, to try to help you agree on a solution. If you want to mediate, write instructions on your application form about when and how they can contact you on the phone. You can call 0800 TENANCY to arrange a mediation at a time that suits you. If you do get to take part in a mediation, remember that anything you agree to will be a binding legal order.

What happens at a Tenancy Tribunal hearing?

If there’s no agreement (or no mediation) then the matter will go to a Tenancy Tribunal hearing. A Tribunal hearing is like a court hearing but less formal. The Tribunal will listen to both sides and make a decision.

If you don’t get temporary release to attend the hearing, you can ask permission to have someone else represent you. You will need to do that at least a few days before the hearing. If you don’t have a representative, you will have to write down your arguments and evidence very clearly so that the Tribunal understands your case well.

How do I get my bond back?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 22-22E

All bonds are required to be lodged with Tenancy Services. You should have a copy of a Bond Refund form. If you don’t have one Tenancy Services (0800 TENANCY) can send a new one. It is unlawful for a landlord to not lodge a bond.

To get your refund, both you and your landlord should sign the form. You’ll need to state the amount of refund that has been agreed and provide the bank account number you want the refund to go to.

If you can’t contact your landlord, you should fill in the Bond Refund form, sign it and send it in regardless. Your landlord will then get a letter giving them time to sign the form. If there’s a dispute over the bond, and the parties cannot reach an agreement, it will need to be resolved in the Tenancy Tribunal.

If you never received a receipt for your bond and the landlord hasn’t lodged the bond with Tenancy Services, this can also be resolved at the Tenancy Tribunal.

Next Section | Mortgages

Did this answer your question?

Housing and debt

Where to go for more support

Community Law

www.communitylaw.org.nz

Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

Also available as a book

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top