The latest news for New Zealand Landlords and Tenants
We hear a lot about tenants responsibilities, but what about tenants rights? Before signing your tenancy agreement, you should be aware of your rights, especially if problems arise with your tenancy.
Knowing your rights and responsibilities in any situation is only ever beneficial for you, and being a tenant is no exception.
If you’re assuming that your landlord knows tenancy law, this might not always be the case. By keeping yourself informed you can hold your landlord accountable, and know if one of you is in the wrong.
Being faced with eviction
Being evicted is the worst-case scenario for a tenant. Here are a few of the things that your landlord could evict you over, and how to manage them:
- Late rent: If you’re 2 weeks behind in your rent, your landlord can apply to have you evicted. This is why communicating with your landlord is important. If something happens and you’re behind in rent, explain the situation to your landlord. They might be happy to put you on a payment plan. This means paying a little bit extra over the next few weeks until your rent is up-to-date.
- Damage to the property: It’s expected that living in a property will cause a little ‘wear and tear’. But causing substantial, intentional damage to the property means your landlord can apply to have you evicted. It’s highly unlikely that you could cause this degree of damage accidentally, but it can happen. We recommend taking photos of your property during the move-in and try to keep the house in the same condition. If anything is damaged, it’s a good idea to tell your landlord immediately.
- Improper use of the property: In your tenancy agreement, it should say that the rental property is only to be used on a residential basis. If your landlord discovers that you’re using your rental to run an Airbnb, they can apply to have you evicted or issue you with a fine.
Other possible reasons for your tenancy to be terminated
- Having pets living in your house when you agreed not to have pets. This is usually outlined on your tenancy agreement.
- Too many people living at the property. Another clause in your tenancy agreement could be that you’re only allowed a certain number of people as tenants.
It’s important to remember these clauses and fully read your tenancy agreement to see what they are. This is because if you violate any, your landlord may have terms to evict you.
Tenants rights to quiet enjoyment -when your landlord enters the property
Despite your landlord owning the property that you live in, they still can’t come over whenever they feel like it. It’s a tenants right to enjoy their rental in peace and there are specific rules around your landlord entering the space. Your landlord must give you the proper notice if they intend to visit for any reason. For a rental inspection, a landlord has to provide a minimum of 48 hours notice, with a maximum of 2 weeks. Generally, inspections will take place every 3 months but a landlord is allowed to inspect the property 30 days at the most.
Restrictions around the tenancy
Your landlord has the right to say that you can’t have pets, or that you must smoke outside. This should all be outlined in your tenancy agreement. But, there is a range of things for which they cannot discriminate. These include a tenant’s:
- marital status
- employment status
- political opinion and
- family status.
It is illegal for a landlord to deny your rental application for any of the reasons above. If you suspect that your landlord is trying to evict you based on discrimination, this is in breach of the Human Rights Act. If this happens to you, consider taking your case to the Tenancy Tribunal.
What are tenants rights when ending a tenancy?
If you’re in a periodic tenancy your landlord can choose to end the tenancy at any point, provided they give at least 90 days’ written notice. Your landlord can give as little as 42 days in the following instances:
- If they or a member of their family is moving into the property
- One of their employees is moving into the property
- The property has been sold, and the new owners don’t want tenants
Fixed-term tenancies are different to periodic tenancies. You need to be aware of which type of tenancy you have, as your rights and responsibilities are quite different. With a fixed-term tenancy, unless you and your landlord agree that you both want to end the tenancy early, they can’t just give you notice to leave. If your landlord is wanting to end the tenancy early, they must apply to the Tenancy Tribunal. In this application they need to prove that an unforeseen change in their circumstances will result in too much hardship for them to continue the tenancy. As a consequence, unless you are being evicted before the tenancy ends, it will continue until the end date in the tenancy agreement.
Your landlord may increase the rent they charge for a number of reasons, but they can’t go changing it whenever they want. Rent increases are currently limited to once every six months. However, with a proposed law change to the Residential Tenancies Act this may become once every 12 months. All landlords must adhere to the laws surrounding the frequency of rent increases. Failure to do so can result in tenants taking them to the Tenancy Tribunal. Additionally, they must not charge a substantial amount over the market rent for similar properties in the area. If you think that your landlord is charging above market rate, you can take them to the Tenancy Tribunal to apply for a rent reduction.
A landlord needs to be providing at least 60 days’ written notice if they are increasing rent. They also can’t be increasing the rent in the first 180 days of the tenancy, and in the 180 days after the last rent increase.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it covers a few of the main points of tenants rights. It’s definitely worth checking out the Residential Tenancies Act, and having a look at the “Rights and obligations of parties” section. That goes into a lot more depth, and covers obligations as well as rights.