What are Landlord's & Your Obligations in NZ
What to expect from your landlord, and what they will expect of you.
A big part of renting a property in New Zealand is the relationship between you and your landlord. As a renter, you’re ‘borrowing’ one of their biggest assets, so they want to know you’ll look after it, while from your perspective, the landlord is responsible for ensuring the property is a good place to call home.
Because this dynamic is so important, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are legal frameworks to lay out each party’s obligations.In particular, the Tenancies Act of 1986 provides clear guidance on landlord obligations and rights, as well as of those of tenants. In this article, we’re going to explore the key elements of what’s expected from both you and your landlord, so you can go into this relationship clear about how it should work.
Key landlord responsibilities in NZ
Here are some of a Kiwi landlord’s most important responsibilities towards their tenants:
1. Making sure the property is in a reasonable state of repair
It’s up to the landlord to ensure the rental property you live in is safe and healthy. Under this umbrella come maintenance issues including, but not limited to:
- Making sure the locks work.
- Having plumbing and electrical wiring functioning as it should.
- Making sure the house is structurally sound this includes meeting all relevant building standards.
- Cleaning the chimney (if there is one), though occasionally this can come under the tenant’s list of responsibilities.
- Managing asbestos risks.
- Maintaining the property’s exterior – usually, the landlord is responsible for outside maintenance, tasks like gutter cleaning and repairs. It’s worth clarifying precisely what, if anything, you’re responsible for in terms of exterior maintenance before signing the agreement.
Landlords need to make sure their rental properties are healthy and safe to live in.
2. Allowing the tenant “quiet enjoyment” of the property
The Residential Tenancies Act (1986 that landlords need to “let the tenant have quiet enjoyment of the property”. This might sound a bit odd, but it has some important practical implications:
- If cleaning or maintenance is needed, the landlord should do this before you move in.
- If ongoing maintenance is needed, they need to give you proper notice before they do this, and discuss these with you if they involve fumes or noise.
- Generally, landlords can’t just turn up unannounced – they’re allowed to enter the home for certain reasons and at certain times. However, they need to ask your permission or provide the right amount of warning.
One important reason the landlord can enter your property is for an inspection. However, there are some rules they have to follow here too:
- Landlords can’t conduct inspections more frequently than once every four weeks.
- They can’t conduct inspections before 8 AM or after 7 PM.
- They have to give you at least 48 hours notice before an inspection.
- They should ask you if you want to be present, but you don’t have to be.
3. Providing an agent if they leave NZ for over 21 consecutive days
Landlords need to appoint an agent to act on their behalf if they plan on leaving New Zealand for over 21 consecutive days. They need to do this before they leave, and supply you with their name, contact info and service address.
The person they appoint doesn’t need to be a property management company, but has to be in New Zealand.
4. Giving notice if they intend to sell the property
If the landlord decides they want to sell the property, they have to give you written notice that this is their intention. From here, there are a few things worth knowing.
- The landlord needs to ask your permission before showing potential buyers through the house, or gaining access to take photos.
- You can’t unreasonably refuse access, but you can ask the landlord to meet certain conditions, e.g. not holding auctions in the house, limiting access to certain days and times or ensuring you are present during open homes.
- It’s within tenants’ rights to refuse their landlord permission to take photos that show any of your personal belongings.
Your landlord would need to give you written warning if they are planning to sell the rental property.
When the property is sold, either:
1. The new owner becomes the landlord
They need to give you their name, contact details and bank account number for you to pay the rent into. Usually, your bond will pass from the old landlord to the new one.
2. The new owner doesn’t want tenants
What happens here depends on the type of tenancy agreement you have. If you are ‘periodic’ (i.e. non fixed-term tenants), the home needs to be empty when the sale goes through. This means your original landlord has to give you a minimum of 42 days’ notice before the tenancy ends and you leave the home.
If you are on a fixed-term tenancy, the buyer has to honour the remainder of your tenancy period and will become the new landlord with the existing tenancy agreement in place. Your original landlord may approach you to discuss whether you’d be happy to end the tenancy early, before the sale, but you don’t have to agree to this.
Your responsibilities as a tenant
The Residential Tenancies Act (1986) also describes your end of the bargain when renting a property. Here are some of the most important:
1. Paying your rent and bills
This one’s a bit of a no brainer – you need to pay the right amount of rent at the right time, as per your tenancy agreement.
Unless agreed otherwise, you also need to pay for standard extras, such as internet provision, water and electricity.
2. Keeping the property tidy and clean, and letting the landlord know about issues
The exact phrasing of the Act is that “the tenant shall keep the premises reasonably clean and reasonably tidy”. Obviously, the issue here is that different people can have different standards when it comes to what constitutes “reasonably clean and reasonably tidy” (ask any parent of a teenage child). Hopefully, there won’t be any disagreement here between yourselves and the landlord, but regular property inspections can help manage expectations on both sides.
It’s important to remember that “reasonably clean and reasonably tidy” also refers to the property’s exterior. Exactly what you’re responsible for when it comes to managing lawns, gardens and plants will depend on what you agreed to in the tenancy agreement.
It’s also up to you, as a tenant, to tell your landlord, as soon as possible, about any damage to the premises or need for maintenance. Of course, damaging the property would go against your tenancy agreement.
Your landlord will probably want to conduct inspections to check you're taking care of their property.
3. Only using the property as agreed
In particular, this includes not using the property for anything illegal, and not allowing more than the agreed number of tenants to live in the property.
4.Only making changes to the property having consulted your landlord
As a tenant, you can’t add or alter property fixtures without written consent from the landlord. You also can’t remove fixtures if this involves causing irreparable damage to the home. If you do damage the property, you’ll have to tell the landlord, who can ask you to either fix it or compensate them.
If you’re unsure about doing something, for example, adding picture hooks, ask the landlord before proceeding.
5. Not disturbing others
In the same way as you should expect to be left in peace by your landlord, you have similar obligations to neighbours and other tenants. This means not making too much noise or otherwise disturbing those that live around you.
Please note, this isn’t an exhaustive guide to landlords’ and tenants’ rights and responsibilities. Perhaps the most important advice we can give you is to be thorough when reading the tenancy agreement before you sign it. These documents aren’t the same every time, so it’s vital you know exactly what you’re signing.
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