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 Building and Housing about whether to go to mediation or to the Tenancy Tribunal . Mediation is normally recommended first.
Who can give me advice about tenancy issues?
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Building and Housing division 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. Free advice is available on 0800 83 62 62.
However, flatmate disputes must be dealt with through the Disputes Tribunal. Your local CAB can help you with this.
What is mediation?
Mediation is available through Building and Housing, and is 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 both parties sign. The mediated order is binding and can be enforced in the District Court.
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 Tenancy 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).
I’m having problems with my landlord. What 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
- Building and Housing has a template letter you can send to your landlord giving them 14 days notice to remedy the problem.
- Contact Building and Housing (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
Am I allowed to cut a second key for my rental house? My landlord says I can’t.
The landlord cannot specify how many keys you can cut.
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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 and 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. You can use the Department of Building and Housing's letter template which notifies the landlord that they have 14 days to fix the situation.
Make sure you keep a copy of the notice as proof. 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.
In 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 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 and inform you of the Agent's details.
Our landlord lives next door and keeps popping over to do the lawns, cut back a branch or just to see how things are going. We are finding it 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 have to give at least 24 hours notice before coming over to do any repairs or maintenance.
Contact the Building and Housing (0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62) if you want specific advice about how to enforce those rights.
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?
Landlords need to gain your permission to show real estate agents or prospective buyers through the house, and they have to come through at a reasonable hour. You can only refuse your landlord entry on reasonable grounds, which can include a real estate agent coming too often.
Try talking to your landlord about some set times that they can show people through.
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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 Building and Housing (0800 83 62 62) or visit their tenancy website for further information on your rights and instruction on how to resolve the problem through the Tribunal.
The landlord has subdivided the property and is building a second house behind ours. The builder’s activity has turned the driveway to mud and 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.
You landlord needs to act in such a way as to respect your peace and privacy, this might include for instance only working during business hours, and ensuring that access to your house is not impeded. You should talk to your landlord about this, so they know about your problems. 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 Building and Housing (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?
Your landlord cannot simply give you an eviction notice. If they want to end the tenancy sooner than normal then they have to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a termination notice. In order to apply for an eviction notice 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.
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.