Tenant & landlord issues 



What’s the best way to resolve a dispute with my landlord?

The first approach you should try is sitting down and talking with your landlord. You can both try to clarify your rights and obligations and come to an agreement. If this doesn’t work, you can talk to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE's) Tenancy Services about how to progress. Mediation is normally recommended as a first step and if this fails either party can make an application with the Tenancy Tribunal.

Below are some general tips:

  • First tell the landlord about the problem in person or on the phone, then follow up with a letter confirming the conversation – if nothing happens, contact the landlord again
  • Keep copies of all letters or notes you send to the landlord or get from the landlord
  • Keep a record of your conversations with the landlord
  • MBIE's Tenancy Services has a template letter you can send to your landlord giving them 14 days notice to remedy the problem.
  • Contact Tenancy Services (0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62) or a Citizens Advice Bureau for information
  • Apply to the Tenancy Tribunal if raising the problem with the landlord hasn’t helped
  • Don’t stop paying rent regardless of what the landlord does or doesn’t do
  • Don’t move out without giving proper notice, regardless of what the landlord does or doesn’t do

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Who can give me advice about tenancy issues?

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE's) Tenancy Services deals with any questions about your rights and obligations as a tenant or landlord, and the Residential Tenancies Act, and works to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords.

It can give advice and information about the law and about taking a problem to mediation or to the Tenancy Tribunal. You can contact them on 0800 83 62 62.

However, flatmate disputes must be dealt with through the Disputes Tribunal. Your local CAB can help you with this.

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What is mediation?

Mediation is available through Tenancy Services, and is often the first legal step taken to solve a dispute between landlords and tenants. Either the tenant or the landlord can make an application for about $20 to start the process of mediation. A mediator helps the parties talk through and solve their problems. This may be phone mediation or face to face.

The mediator does not make a decision about what will happen – this is for the landlord and tenant to decide together.

If an agreement is reached, usually the mediator will write down the outcome as a ‘mediated order’ that the mediator, and usually also the tenant and landlord, signs. The mediated order is binding. There is more information about this on the Tenancy Services website. 

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What can I do if my landlord refuses to deal with problems or if I can’t get hold of them?

If the problem is urgent and is a serious threat to your health or safety, then you can arrange to get repairs done yourself. You can claim reimbursement from your landlord later as long as you try to contact the landlord first.

If the repair is not urgent and the landlord doesn’t act, then you should begin by sending your landlord a notice asking for the repair to be carried out (this is called a "14 day notice to remedy"). You can use Tenancy Services' letter template which formally notifies the landlord that they have 14 days to fix the situation.

Make sure you keep a copy of the notice as proof that you sent it. If your landlord still fails to carry out the repair, you can apply for a work order through the Tenancy Tribunal and ask for compensation.

Under no circumstances should you withhold rent to get repairs done, because if your rent gets more than 21 days behind, the landlord can ask for a termination of your agreement.

If your landlord is going to be overseas for more than 21 days then they have to appoint a New Zealand agent (someone who will act on the landlord's behalf) and inform you of the agent's details.

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I feel like I wasn’t allowed to rent a flat because of who I am. What can I do?

As set out in both the Human Rights Act and the Residential Tenancies Act, it is illegal for your landlord to discriminate against you in relation to granting, continuing, extending, changing, ending or renewing a tenancy agreement. It is also illegal for them to advertise in a discriminatory way.

If you feel you have been discriminated against you can contact the Human Rights Commission to get advice or complain. Alternatively, you can make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal (but you can't complain to both).

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Am I allowed to cut a second key for the place I’m renting?

The landlord cannot specify how many keys you can cut. However if you cut an additional key for a visitor (e.g. a family member) to use, then you will be responsible if they misuse the key (e.g. to steal or damage property). If you leave the tenancy the landlord may ask you for all of the house keys including the new copies.

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Our landlord lives next door and keeps popping over to do maintenance on the property, which we find a bit invasive. What are our rights?

To start with, you should try talking to your landlord to tell him or her how you feel about the frequent visits. They might not realise they are making you uncomfortable, and you may be able to reach an agreement.

If they continue to ignore your requests, then you can inform them that as a landlord they have to give 48 hours notice to carry out a flat inspection, and at least 24 hours notice before coming over to do any repairs or maintenance.

Contact MBIE's Tenancy Services on 0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62) if you want specific advice about how to enforce those rights.

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I’m renting a house that’s for sale and the real estate agents want to keep bringing people through. Do I have to let them in?

The landlord needs to gain your permission to show real estate agents or prospective buyers through the house, and they have to visit at a reasonable hour. You can only refuse your landlord entry on reasonable grounds, which can include a real estate agent coming too often.

If the landlord wants to hold an open home at the house, they have to discuss this with you to agree on some specific times and dates. You don’t have to agree to an open home and can, for example, insist that agents and prospective buyers only visit by appointment.

More information about what your rights are if your landlord is planning on selling the property you rent, is on the Tenancy Services website.
 
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The landlord is claiming I damaged a place I rented previously. What can I do?

The landlord should have told you of the problem when you were still living there or when your lease ended.

When you leave a tenancy, you should have a flat inspection with your landlord to identify any damages that could be paid for out of your bond money. If there is disagreement, you should first sit down and try to come to an agreement with your landlord about the damages.

If this doesn’t work, you can call Tenancy Services (0800 83 62 62) or visit their website for further information on your rights and instruction on how to resolve the problem through the Tenancy Tribunal.

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The landlord has subdivided the property and is building a second house behind ours. The builder’s activity has made access to our house very difficult. What can we do?

The landlord has an obligation to ensure your quiet enjoyment of the property. Ideally your landlord should have discussed this with you before your tenancy agreement began.

Your landlord needs to act in such a way as to respect your peace and privacy, this might include, for example, only working during business hours and ensuring that access to your house is not impeded.  Talk to your landlord about this, so they know about your concerns. You might be able to negotiate a rent reduction to make up for any inconvenience. If you really can’t reach an agreement with your landlord you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to end your tenancy early.

For further advice call Tenancy Services on  0800 83 62 62.

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I have been given an eviction notice because my dog barked at the landlord during an inspection. Is the landlord able to do this?

Eviction is when your tenancy is ended because of a breach which is serious enough that the Tenancy Tribunal will order an end to your tenancy.

This is different from being given notice to leave, where you have a periodic tenancy and  the landlord gives you 90 days’ written notice to leave (or 42 days’ in some situations - for example because they want to sell the house to someone who doesn’t want it tenanted).

If your landlord wants to end the tenancy sooner than normal then they have to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal. Your landlord has to prove that:

  • You are at least 21 days behind in the rent, or
  • you have caused or have threatened to cause damage to the property, or
  • you have assaulted, or threatened to assault your landlord, a member of their family, the landlord’s agent, or your neighbour, or
  • you were served a 14 day notice to remedy (e.g. to pay overdue rent and have not acted on it).

If the landlord has applied to the Tenancy Tribunal for a termination notice, you can appear at the Tenancy Tribunal to present your side of the story. If you need help preparing to appear at the Tenancy Tribunal contact your local CAB.

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The place I’m renting needs lots of repairs. My landlord says if they get repairs done they’ll put my rent up to cover the costs. Can they do this?

Your landlord is obliged to keep the rental property in a reasonable state of repair, which means ensuring that any necessary repairs are completed. 

Your landlord is entitled to review your rent every 180 days – if they wish to increase your rent, they have to give you a minimum amount of notice. If you have a fixed tenancy however, then your landlord can’t change the rent unless it is specifically allowed for in the tenancy agreement. More information about this is on our Paying Rent page.