Flatting issues 

 
You'll find information about resolving disputes between tenants and landlords, on our Tenant and landlord issues page and our Tenancy Tribunal page. For information about disputes between flatmates, read on.


What are some tips for avoiding flatmate problems?

Before you enter into any flatting situation, you should take the time to find out about the people you will be living with. You’ll want to be sure that you can get along with them and that you can rely on them to do their share of the household chores, pay their share of the rent and that they won't make you feel uncomfortable in your new home. 

It is also well worth having a written flat-sharing agreement between co-tenants or flatmates at the start, as this can help clarify what’s expected of each of you and can support your claim if there is a dispute later on.

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Is there a dispute resolution service to help with disputes between flatmates?

It can be more difficult to resolve flatmate disputes than it is to resolve disputes between tenant and landlord.

If you have a dispute with your flatmate which you can’t resolve by discussing it with them, you can make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal. The Tenancy Tribunal does not consider disputes between flatmates or between a homeowner and their boarder.

Another option is mediation, but this may be a more expensive option than the Disputes Tribunal.

If you do go to the Disputes Tribunal or mediation it will help to have a copy of the agreement with you.

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My flatmate has left, owing me $600 in rent money. The lease is in my name. What can I do?

If there is a dispute with your ex-flatmate over whether they owe you money, you can make a claim with the Disputes Tribunal

If the person doesn’t dispute the debt but simply won’t pay, read about your options for recovering money owed to you on our Recovery of debts page.      

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A flatmate left some of their stuff behind and owes rent. Can we sell their stuff?

No you can’t. In order to recover money owed to you, you must make a claim with the Disputes Tribunal (although the Disputes Tribunal cannot force the flatmate to pay) or to a debt collection agency.

If property has been abandoned by the former flatmate you must make a reasonable attempt to locate the owner. If you manage to find the ex-flatmate and they agree to return and collect their things, you are obliged to take reasonable steps to look after the property in the meantime.

If the person fails to collect their belongings as promised, you can make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal (to dispose of the property, for example) or, if the flatmate was a tenant, you could talk to your landlord about applying to the Tenancy Tribunal for an order allowing the landlord to dispose of the goods.

If you cannot locate the owner, then the property can be sold, as it is accepted that the property cannot be stored indefinitely. Storage expenses and associated costs can also be deducted from the sale proceeds.

You’ll find information about the landlord’s rights when a tenant leaves their possessions behind, on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Tenancy Services website.

It’s a good idea to document what you do regarding the abandoned goods in case there is a dispute about it later.  
 
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I am one of four co-tenants. One of the others is a problem and we asked him to leave, but he won't. What can we do?

If the problem tenant is abusive and you do not feel safe in the same house with them, contact the Police.

As all of you are named on the tenancy agreement then none of you has the right to ask the other to leave.

Try to have a calm discussion with all of the tenants, to see if you can resolve the issues together. It may be possible to work through the problems and agree on a remedy which everyone is happy with.

If this does not succeed then your options for action will depend on whether you have a periodic tenancy or a fixed-term tenancy, and what the actual problem is with the unwanted tenant.

If the co-tenant’s behaviour is interfering with the reasonable peace, comfort, or privacy of any of the other tenants, you could try asking your landlord to give the tenant a "notice to remedy" asking them to change their behaviour. If they don’t change their behaviour, the landlord could apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the tenancy terminated. If your landlord won’t give the co-tenant a notice to remedy, then you might consider applying to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the tenancy ended on the grounds that the landlord is not fulfilling their responsibilities.

More about dealing with breaches of tenant and landlord obligations is on our Tenant and landlord issues page.

Another option is to end the tenancy (but it is not so easy to end a fixed-term tenancy early).

Be aware that if the excluded tenant owes their share of the rent, the remaining tenants could be liable for the shortfall.

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My flatmate hasn’t been paying his share of the rent. What can I do?

In a flat-sharing situation, only the flatmates who are named on the tenancy agreement are responsible for ensuring that the rent for the property is paid to the landlord on time. This means that if one co-tenant won’t pay their share then the other co-tenants can be liable for that amount. If the errant flatmate is not a tenant and you are, then you (and any other co-tenants) are liable for the rent.

It’s best to start with a flat meeting in which you can all discuss the issue and come up with a solution. 
 
Make sure you let your landlord know if the rent on the flat is going to be overdue or not paid in full  due to your flatmate not paying their share. The landlord may be willing to work with you on a solution. More about rent arrears is on our Paying rent page.

If you have had to pay your flatmate’s share of the rent and they won’t pay you back, you can make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal (if the debt is in dispute) or consider debt recovery action.

If you want your flatmate to leave, see the answer to the previous question.

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My ex-flatmate trashed her room just before moving out. Am I liable for the cost of repairs?

Under the Residential Tenancies Act, all tenants (i.e. those who have their names on the tenancy agreement) are jointly liable if one of the occupants – whether or not that person is a tenant - intentionally damages the rental property.

If your name isn’t on the tenancy agreement, the landlord can’t pursue you for the damage.

But if your name is on the agreement (i.e. you are a tenant) then the landlord can chase you up for the cost of the repairs. If this happens to you, you could go to the Disputes Tribunal to get your money back from your ex-flatmate. Your local CAB can help you with this.

One way to protect yourself from the risk of someone intentionally damaging your flat, is to get liability insurance. Your content insurance may include this, so check with your insurer. More information about insurance for tenants is on the Tenancy Services website.

Something to be aware of is that if a tenant unintentionally causes damage to the rental property, neither the landlord nor the landlord's insurer can pursue the tenant to recover these costs. More information about this is on the Tenancy Services website.