Starting or joining a flat 

If you're starting up a flat or joining a flat as a named tenant, you'll also need to know about your rights and obligations as a tenant. You'll find this in our Residential tenancy section, including:

Read on for answers to questions about entering flatting situations, where at least some of the people living in the rented property aren't named as tenants on the tenancy agreement. 


What's the difference between flatting, boarding and being a tenant? 

A flatmate is someone who shares a house with others, contributing to expenses and chores; at least one flatmate is a tenant i.e. their name is on the tenancy agreement.

A tenant is a person who rents a property from a landlord, and has a written tenancy agreement signed by both the landlord and the tenant. Tenants have rights and obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986.

A boarder is someone who rents a room in a private home or a boarding house. A tenant is a person who rents a property from a landlord, and has a written tenancy agreement signed by both the landlord and the tenant.  

If the boarding house is covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 then the boarder has rights and obligations according to the Act. More about this is on our Boarding house tenancies page.

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Are flatting situations covered by residential tenancy law?

Flatmates who are not named on the tenancy agreement are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 - which only covers landlords and tenants, including tenants in some boarding houses. This means that the rights of flatmates are not clear cut.

Rental situations where the landlord shares the property with people who rent a room on the property (i.e. private board) are also not covered by the Act.

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What are my obligations as a flatmate?

That will depend on the agreement you’ve made with your flatmates, and whether or not you are a tenant. It’s always a good idea to have a written flat-sharing agreement which sets out the obligations of all the flatmates, but even if you don’t have a written agreement then you still have any obligations that you’ve verbally agreed to e.g. paying money into a kitty, giving notice before you leave the flat etc.

You can find a template for a flat or house-sharing agreement on the Tenancy website.

You’ll find general advice for first-time flatters on the Tenancy Services’ Flatting 101 website, as well as on the websites of many universities.

If your name is on the tenancy agreement, then you have the same obligations as any tenants. If you are a tenant and your flatmates aren’t then it is a very good idea to have a written agreement with them (see our next question and answer) because you are going to be responsible for any issues with the tenancy e.g. if the flat is intentionally damaged, or the rent is not paid.

More information about your obligations if things go wrong at the flat, is on our Flatting issues page. 

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What rights do I have as a flatmate?

It depends on whether you have signed the tenancy agreement – if you have then you are a tenant and you have rights under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986.

If you are not a tenant then your rights are based largely on any flat-sharing agreement you have signed up to.

It’s always a good idea when moving into a new flat, to have a flat-sharing agreement which covers issues such as payment of bond and rent, pets, housekeeping, and what to do when one of you wants to leave. Just as the tenancy agreement is a contract between tenant and landlord, a flat-sharing agreement is a contract between tenants and flatmates sharing a rental property.

You can download a flat-sharing agreement template from the Tenancy website.     

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What can I expect to pay as a flatmate?

Obviously your rent depends on the location and the quality of your room or house. You can do some research yourself by looking at the general market value of rooms or houses in the area you are looking at renting in.

You will have other costs to budget for, such as: 

  • your share of the bond
  • content insurance to cover your possessions
  • if your name is on the tenancy agreement it’s worth talking to your insurer about whether you need to get personal liability cover   
  • your share of the bills and groceries

The Sorted website has an overview of the likely costs of flatting.

Many university websites, such as Canterbury and Waikato, have information about the expected costs of renting in the surrounding areas.