Tenant & landlord issues 

How can I resolve a dispute with my landlord?

The first approach you should try is talking with your landlord to clarify your rights and obligations and agree on a solution. If this doesn’t work, you can talk to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE's) Tenancy Services about what to do. They normally recommend mediation as a first step and if this fails either party can make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal.

Below are some general tips:

  • Talk to the landlord first, and then follow up with a letter confirming the conversation – if nothing happens, contact the landlord again.
  • Keep copies of all letters or notes between you and 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 or 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.
  • Do not stop paying rent regardless of what the landlord does or doesn’t do.
  • Do not move out without giving proper notice, regardless of what the landlord does or doesn’t do.

If the dispute is related to debt, and you and your landlord are able come to an agreement about it, your landlord may choose to have the agreement formalised as a mediator’s order by applying to the FastTrack Resolution Service

The FastTrack Resolution Service is provided by Tenancy Services and allows both parties to formalise their agreement without having to go through mediation first. If your landlord does this, Tenancy Services will contact you (the tenant) to confirm what you’ve agreed to before writing up your case. If you find any discrepancy between what you agreed to and the information Tenancy Services received, let them know.

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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 works to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords.

Tenancy Services 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 often the first legal step taken to solve a dispute between landlords and tenants. 

During mediation, the tenant and landlord discuss the issue under dispute, with the help of a mediator. The aim is for both parties to come to an agreement. If both parties reach an agreement a Tribunal hearing will be unnecessary.

Either tenant or landlord can apply for mediation and it will cost around $20. You can do mediation over the phone 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 you reach an agreement, usually the mediator will write down the outcome as a ‘mediated order’ and signs it, and usually the tenant and landlord also sign. The mediated order is binding.

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What can I do if I'm having difficulty getting my landlord to deal with problems with the rental property?

If the problem is urgent and a serious threat to your health or safety, you can arrange to get repairs done yourself. You can claim repayment 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' template letter which formally tells 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 and order to get work done from the Tenancy Tribunal. They can order your landlord to get the work done themselves, or reimburse you for the cost of getting the work done.

Under no circumstances should you withhold rent to make your landlord do the repairs, because if your rent gets more than 21 days behind, the landlord will be entitled to ask the Tenancy Tribunal to terminate your tenancy.

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

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The landlord wouldn't rent to me because of who I am. What can I do?

Under the Human Rights Act and the Residential Tenancies Act, it is illegal for a 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 that a landlord or property manager has 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 agencies about the same issue).

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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, try talking to your landlord and explain 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 do this, then you can inform them that a landlord must:

  • give 48 hours notice to carry out a property inspection, and
  • give at least 24 hours notice before doing any repairs or maintenance.

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

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Who is liable if a tenant causes damage to the rental property?

It depends on:

  • what is the cause of the damage,
  • whether the damage was intentional or through carelessness, and
  • whether the landlords insurance covers the damage.

The tenant is responsible if:

  • the tenant intentionally, or through carelessness, caused damage
  • the tenant caused the damage because of an imprisonable offence
  • someone who was present with the tenant’s permission (eg a visiting friend) caused the damage intentionally, through carelessness, or because of an imprisonable offence.

If the damage was unintentional and the landlord‘s insurance covers the damage, then the landlord is responsible. The insurer cannot pursue the tenant to claim back their costs, and the landlord can’t pursue the tenant for any excess costs.

The landlord is also responsible If the damage resulted from fire, flood, explosion, lightning, storm, earthquake or volcanic activity, was not intentional nor as a result of an imprisonable offence.
If the landlord and tenant cannot agree over who is responsible for the damage, either party can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal.

More information about this is on the Tenancy website.

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A former landlord is claiming I damaged a place I rented in the past. 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 property inspection with your landlord to identify any damages that might have to be paid for out of your bond money. If there is damage, you should first try to come to an agreement with your landlord about who is liable.

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 how to resolve the problem through the Tenancy Tribunal.

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The landlord has arranged for building work to be done behind our rental but this makes 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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The landlord gave me an eviction notice because my dog barked at them 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 has ordered 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 early 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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Our landlord moved overseas and we have no idea who to contact about getting repairs done. What can we do?

Your landlord should have appointed an agent before they left the country, and they should have advised you who the agent was and how to contact them. Your landlord is required by law to do this if they are going to be overseas for more than 21 days. If the bond is held by Tenancy Services the landlord must also notify them. (More about what the landlord needs to do is on the Rights and obligations of tenants and landlords page).

If your landlord is away for more than 21 days and has not done these things issue the landlord with a notice to remedy (using the landlord’s address as recorded on the tenancy agreement). Give them a deadline to appoint an agent or provide the agent’s contact details. If the landlord does not do this within the time period you have given them, you can then make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal.  

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Last time I inspected my rental the tenants threatened me with violence. Can I evict them for this?

Yes, you can. 

If your tenants threaten you or your family, or cause (or threaten to cause) substantial damage to your property, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a termination order to evict them.  

More about terminating a tenancy (if you are a landlord) is on our Ending a tenancy page.

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Can I get compensation if I’m out of pocket because the landlord was in breach of their obligations?

If the Tenancy Tribunal considers the breach to be serious, and it is an unlawful act, they can award you “exemplary damages” – this means the landlord has to pay you a fine up to a maximum amount that is specified in Schedule 1A of the Residential Tenancies Act.