A private tenant is a person who rents property from a landlord for personal use. As a private tenant, you are entitled to certain rights under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. As a tenant, you must pay rent in order to use the property.
There are two types of residential tenancy agreements, periodic and fixed term. A periodic tenancy continues until either the landlord or tenant decides to end the tenancy. A fixed-term tenancy is for a set period of time, e.g. one year.
A tenancy agreement is between a landlord and a tenant. It contains all of the agreements made between the landlord and the tenant that relate to the tenancy. The tenancy agreement must be in writing and it must be signed by both the landlord and the tenant.
A tenancy agreement must include:
- The contact details of the landlord and tenant;
- Whether the tenant is under the age of 18;
- The address for service of the landlord and tenant (the address where you would like to receive documents about the tenancy);
- The address of the premises;
- The date of the tenancy agreement;
- The start date and the end date of the tenancy;
- The amount of rent and when and how it is payable (see below);
- The amount of any bond (see below);
- A list of the furniture and appliances provided by the landlord; and
- Any information about insulation (see below).
For more information, you can look at the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 and in particular sections 13 and 13A. The Act details sets out your rights and responsibilities as a tenant and provides special protections to you under the law. Once you have signed your tenancy agreement you are entitled to the protections under the Act.
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As a tenant you are entitled to:
- Quiet enjoyment of the property;
- A reasonably clean and tidy home before you move in;
- A safe and secure home with working locks and smoke alarms;
- 60 days’ notice before the rent is increased;
- 48 hours notice before the property is inspected; and
- 24 hours notice before repairs or maintenance is carried out on the property.
In certain circumstances, your landlord is entitled to:
- Enter the property (they can do this without informing you if there is an emergency); and
- End the tenancy (with notice).
Rent is the money you are required to pay to your landlord in order to live in the property. A landlord cannot ask for more than 2 weeks’ rent in advance. You cannot refuse to pay rent while waiting for a landlord to fix something on the property. The landlord is entitled to end the tenancy if you do not pay rent.
The landlord must not increase the rent within one year of the start of the tenancy. After that, the landlord can only increase the rent once a year. A landlord must give 60 days’ notice before increasing rent.
If there are multiple tenants on the property and one of them misses their rent payment then the other tenants are required to pay it themselves.
A bond is a sum of money that must be paid to the landlord at the start of a tenancy. The bond is separate from the rent and is usually the same amount as two weeks of rent. A landlord is not allowed to ask for a bond that is more than four weeks’ rent.
The landlord is able to use the bond money to cover unpaid rent and damage to the property. If a tenant pays rent on time and does not damage the property, the full bond amount will be refunded at the end of the tenancy.
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All tenancy agreements must include information relating to the insulation of the property. Click here for more information on insulation.
If you have a problem with your landlord that is not being resolved then you can go to the tenancy tribunal. Click here for more information.
Public housing is provided by Housing New Zealand (HNZ) and Work & Income (WINZ) for people in need. In order to be eligible for public housing you need to live in New Zealand, be at least 16 years old, have a low income, and also fulfill one of the following:
- You are a New Zealand citizen;
- You have been a New Zealand permanent resident for more than two years;
- You have been a New Zealand permanent resident for less than two years receiving a main benefit; or
- You are not a New Zealand resident but you are receiving an emergency benefit because you are a refugee, protected person, or are applying for residence and must remain in New Zealand.
Your income will be considered low if you earn less than $655.41 after tax per week if you are single or $1,003.33 after tax per week if you have a partner and/or dependent children, and if your cash assets are less than $42,700.00, which includes the money in your bank account. If you have income or cash assets worth more than this, you may still qualify for public housing. It is important to remember that income includes the money that is earned from any job/s as well as any benefits that are received from WINZ.
Applying for Public Housing
You must go through an application process to be eligible for public housing. Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can assist in this process. Click here for the necessary information.
If your application is denied and you disagree with the decision then you can have the decision reviewed. To review a decision you must fill out a ‘Review of Decision Application’ form. This can be found at your local WINZ office or here. Make sure that you complete the form and give it to WINZ within 3 months of the denied application.
Property Inspections for Public Housing
Housing New Zealand (HNZ) may inspect the social housing property a few times throughout the year. HNZ must give you at least 48 hours’ notice before they inspect your property. If the inspection time does not work for you then you can call HNZ on 0800 801 601 to arrange another time. An inspection can take up to 40 minutes.
You must make sure that the property is in good condition and that all smoke alarms are working. An adult must be home during the inspection. The adult will ideally be the person who signed the tenancy agreement.
If your public housing needs urgent or general repair then you can call HNZ’s free number on 0800 801 601.
Public Housing Legal Requirements
HNZ is legally required to:
- Ensure the house is in good condition and meets all relevant health and safety standards;
- Provide ceiling and underfloor insulation;
- Ensure the house has working locks;
- Give at least 48 hours’ notice before an inspection;
- Give 24 hours’ notice for general repairs; and
- Provide an interpreter if needed.
As a tenant in public housing you are legally required to:
- Pay rent on time;
- Not intentionally damage the house;
- Let HNZ know of repairs that are needed;
- Pay bills on time;
- Hold contents insurance; and
- Inform WINZ or HNZ about any changes in your circumstances.
It is important to fulfil these obligations in order to maintain your tenancy in case you need to make any complaints about the actions of your landlord.
If you wish to make a complaint that your landlord or HNZ has failed to meet their obligations, then you can speak to Tenancy Services or take the dispute to the Tenancy Tribunal.
If you urgently need somewhere to stay in the next 7 days then emergency housing is available. To apply for emergency housing or to get additional information contact the Ministry of Social Development on 0800 599 009.
The Accommodation Supplement is a weekly payment to assist you with paying accommodation costs such as rent, bond, or the costs of owning a home. To be eligible for an Accommodation Supplement you cannot be living in public housing or accommodation provided by HNZ. To be eligible you must either be eligible for a ‘main benefit’ or pass an income test.
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Recoverable Assistance Payment
The Recoverable Assistance Payment is a one-off payment to help you pay an essential or emergency cost, if you cannot pay it any other way. The money will need to be paid back. The payment can be used to cover bond or rent for a period of time, help you purchase furniture, or fund tenancy tribunal fees. You cannot apply for the Recoverable Assistance Payment if you receive a benefit, and whether you receive the payment will depend on your income.
To apply for a Recoverable Assistance Payment call WINZ and they will discuss your circumstances and normally arrange to meet with you.
For more information about accommodation support please contact WINZ on 0800 559 009.