Tenant & landlord issues 

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

The first approach you should try is talking with your landlord so that 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 to the Tenancy Tribunal.

Below are some general tips:

  • First tell the landlord about the problem in person or on the phone, and 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.

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 there seems to be a discrepancy between what you agreed to and the information Tenancy Services received, be sure to 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 available through Tenancy Services, and is often the first legal step taken to solve a dispute between landlords and tenants. 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.

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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 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' template letter 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. You can read more about this elsewhere on this page.

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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 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 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 agencies).

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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 ignore your requests, then you can inform them that as a landlord they have to give 48 hours notice to carry out a property 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) for specific advice about how to enforce those rights.

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Who is liable for fixing damage to the rental property that is caused by the tenant?

This will depend on what has actually caused the damage, whether the damage was caused intentionally (or through the tenant being careless), and whether the type of damage is covered by the landlord’s insurance.

The tenant is responsible for repairing the damage or paying the cost of repair or replacement, if the damage was done intentionally or as a result of an imprisonable offence, by the tenant or someone who is on the premises with the tenant’s permission (e.g. a visitor).

The landlord is responsible for the cost of repair or replacement if:

  • the damage was caused unintentionally, and the landlord has insurance that covers this kind of damage  - in this case the insurer cannot pursue the tenant to claim back their costs, and the landlord can’t pursue the tenant for any excess costs; 
  • the damage is the result of fire, flood, explosion, lightning, storm, earthquake or volcanic activity, and was not caused intentionally or as a result of an imprisonable offence – this is regardless of whether the landlord has insurance cover for this kind of damage.

If the landlord and tenant cannot agree over who is responsible for the damage, either party can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a decision.

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 for 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 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 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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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 it is worth reporting your landlord’s breach of their responsibilities to Tenancy Services.

There is also the possibility that your landlord did notify Tenancy Services and that they have the contact details. Get in touch with Tenancy Services to discuss your situation. If the landlord did give the necessary details to Tenancy Services, they can pass the information on to you.