A guide to renting a house in NZ
A start to finish guide to property rental in New Zealand.
Nearly every Kiwi will rent a home at some point in their lives. Whether at uni, when first starting work or when they move in with a partner, it’s an almost universal experience.
For those new to renting, we’ll take you through all the key steps so you’ll have no surprises and you’ll handle it like a pro.
Steps for renting a house for the first time
1. Work out your budget
When deciding your budget, it’s a good idea to get an average for the city or region you’re looking at, so you know roughly what you’ll have to pay in rent. At Trade Me Property, we release a monthly rental price index, which gives you rental averages for New Zealand’s main centres and informs you of major changes going on in the world of rental properties.
Then you’ll work out what you can afford, factoring in your other living expenses as well as rent, against your income. The outlay at the beginning will probably dig into your savings. The norm is you’ll pay a bond (deposit) before you move in, generally four weeks’ rent, and, in most cases, a couple of weeks rent in advance too.
Drawing up a budget is key when renting a home in New Zealand.
2. Search for properties
Our advice when using Trade Me Property to search for rentals is to be smart with our filters. You’ll save yourself a lot of time scrolling through listings that aren’t appropriate for you by making your search as precise as possible.
On Trade Me Property, you can filter for:
- Location (and suburb where appropriate)
- The amount of rent you want to pay per week
- The number of bedrooms and bathrooms you want
- The property type
- Any other keywords (near schools)
If you’re spoilt for choice, use our Watchlist tool to start a list of your favourites. You want a number of options in an ideal world.
Using filters to refine your search should help you find the most suitable rentals for you.
3. Attend some property viewings
With this shortlist in mind, it’s time to get out and about and look at some properties.
Under the agent’s details on the right, you’ll see a blue button that will let you book a viewing or email the contact. Keep a note of the viewings you book – double-booking yourself and having to cancel, or even worse ghosting, an agent or landlord isn’t going to start the relationship on a positive note.
Questions to ask at viewings:
- Can you please clarify the costs? While this information should be on the online listing, it’s worth double-checking you’ve understood everything about the rent, bond and advance payments.
- Who will be my main contact? The viewing may be hosted by a range of people. You want to know who you’ll be contacting for maintenance issues and other questions once you’ve moved in.
- When can we move in? If this landlord isn’t looking to fill the house for a couple of months, it might not work for you.
- What furnishings are included? Some flats will come complete with whiteware, while others will be totally empty – make sure you understand what you might have to buy to furnish the flat.
- How long did the last tenant stay, and why did they move out? If they didn’t stick around long, this could be a red flag about the property, or the landlord.
- What type of tenancy is the landlord looking for? Are they after a long-term tenancy (over a year), or just something short? Does this suit you?
- Is the property warm and dry? Ask the landlord/agent about insulation and heating for the home. Recent law changes mean that homes have to meet certain standards when it comes to heating and insulation so make sure the property has had the required upgrades done..
- How much are bills likely to be? They should be able to give you an estimate based on previous tenants’ experiences.
- What’s the neighbourhood like? As well as the amenities nearby, ask about the neighbours – are they noisy? Are there pubs and bars in the area, or roads that are likely to make things noisy?
Don't be afraid to ask plenty of questions when viewing a rental property.
4. Make your property application
When you’ve found a rental property you really like, you’ll need to apply for it. This will involve filling out a rental application form that you can get from the landlord or agent. These are usually very straightforward documents that will ask for basic information such as:
- Your name and contact info.
- Your current address and previous renting history.
- Permission for the landlord to run a credit check.
- References they can contact.
No landlord references? Don’t worry: If you’ve never rented before, you won’t have a previous landlord you can use as a reference for your application. In this case, you could use an employer, a teacher or a sports coach, or anyone else of good standing in your community. Just note, you won’t be able to use a family member, and make sure you ask permission to give your referee’s contact information on the form.
Because good rental properties can attract a lot of prospective tenants, you’ll want to look at ways to stand out from the crowd and show the landlord why they should choose you.
Bonus tip: A popular technique to personalise your application, is to write a cover letter, providing a brief description of yourself and anyone else you’re applying with, a flat CV if you like. If you have a pet, you might want to include details about them here too, talking about their breed, fur length and whether they’re an indoor or outdoor animal. Including a photo of your pet is a great idea too.
Good to know: Submitting a property application doesn’t legally bind you to anything. You can make a number of these expressions of interest to keep your options open.
Writing a cover letter is one way you can make your rental application stand out.
5. Sign the agreement and do a move-in inspection
Hurray, the landlord has chosen you, now it’s time to sign the tenancy agreement.t. Be sure to read this very carefully before you sign – these documents are legally binding, so seek help if there’s anything in there you don’t understand.
A tenancy agreement must be in writing, but it’s important to understand that the Residential Tenancies Act will still apply even if you haven’t got a formal written agreement. This means that both you and the landlord will still have responsibilities you need to fulfil.
Every tenancy agreement will ask for:
- Full names and contact addresses for both you and the landlord.
- The rental property’s address.
- Dates for when the agreement was signed, and when the tenancy will start.
- Service addresses for both you and the landlord.
- An indication if you are under the age of 18.
- How much the bond will cost.
- Rent payment amounts and frequency.
- How rent will be paid.
- Any fees that need to be paid.
- A list of chattels (furnishings and appliances) that come with the property.
- The tenancy end-date, if it’s fixed-term.
- A signed insulation statement and healthy homes statement – this will be a separate document.
- An insurance statement.
- A separately signed statement with info about the home’s current compliance with the healthy homes standards.
Tips for the property inspection: You’ll need to do an inspection of the property, with the landlord or letting agent prior to moving in. A bit like when you pick up a rental car, but with more at stake, this is your chance to note any issues with the property, so that you aren’t charged for them later on – they could include maintenance problems that need fixing, or more cosmetic issues like marks on the walls. Our advice is, be thorough, take photos and don’t feel like you have to rush.
6. Pay the bond
You’ll need to pay a bond before you move into the property. This could be as much as four weeks’ worth of rent, and it’ll be held by Tenancy Services. It will be used if the landlord needs to cover expenses such as:
- Unpaid rent.
- Claims relating to the tenancy.
- Damage to the property.
- Unpaid bills.
You’ll get this back as long as you make all your rent payments, and don’t leave the landlord with any expenses at the end of the tenancy. On top of this, there’ll be some rent to be paid in advance which you’ll have agreed with the landlord.
7. Move in
You’re over the last hurdle and you’ve made it to move-in day! Be an upstanding tenant, good at communicating if there are any problems at the house, pay your rent on time, and you’ll enjoy your stay in your first rental home. Make it yours (within reason), relax and enjoy!
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