THE LEGAL STUFF

Legal Obligations of Landlords and Tenants

Both landlords and tenants in New Zealand have certain legal obligations to fulfil, as well as certain legal rights, under New Zealand tenancy law.

The landlord may:

  • enter the property in an emergency without informing the tenant
  • enter the property at other times if the tenant freely allows.

The landlord must not:

  • ask for more than 4 weeks’ rent as bond
  • ask for more than 2 weeks’ rent in advance, or ask for rent to be paid before it is due
  • inspect the property more than once in every 4 weeks, except to check on work they’ve asked the tenant to do to remedy a breach of the tenancy agreement
  • interfere with the tenant’s peace, comfort and privacy
  • interfere with the supply of gas, water, electricity or telephone unless to avoid danger or to enable maintenance or repairs
  • unreasonably refuse to allow a tenant to put up fixtures such as shelves
  • change the locks unless the tenant agrees
  • unreasonably stop a tenant who wants to sublet or assign the tenancy to someone else, unless it is stated in the tenancy agreement that the tenant cannot assign or sublet the tenancy
  • evict a tenant (this needs a possession order enforced by the District Court)
  • Take the tenant’s belongings as a security for money owed at any time during or after the tenancy or refuse to hand back belongings left behind at the end of the tenancy (provided the tenant pays any actual and reasonable storage costs).

The tenant must:

  • pay the rent on time (the tenant should not withhold rent even if they think the landlord is breaching the tenancy agreement)
  • keep the property reasonably clean and tidy
  • tell the landlord as soon as possible about any damage or anything that needs to be fixed
  • fix any damage they or their visitors cause on purpose or by being careless, or pay for someone to fix it
  • pay for all charges that are exclusively attributable to the tenant’s occupation of the premises, for example telephone, electricity, gas and internet
  • pay for metered water if there is a separate water meter and the water supplier charges on the basis of metered usage
  • make sure there are no additional people living in the property than the tenancy agreement says (this does not mean people visiting for a short time)
  • give 21 days’ notice to leave (if on a periodic tenancy)
  • let the landlord show prospective tenants, real estate agents, buyers or valuers through the property in a way that suits the landlord and tenant
  • leave at the end of the tenancy and:
    •  take away all their belongings
    •  leave the property reasonably clean and tidy
    •  give back all keys, access cards and garage door openers
    •  leave everything the landlord owns.

The tenant may not:

  • stop the landlord coming into the property when the Act says they can
  • remain at the property after the tenancy has ended
  • disturb the peace, comfort or privacy of other tenants and neighbors, or allow anyone else at the property to do so
  • damage, or let anyone the tenant has allowed on the premises damage the property, whether it be on purpose or carelessly
  • renovate the building, change it or attach anything to it unless this is in the tenancy agreement or the landlord agrees in writing
  • interfere with, or stop from working any means of escape from fire such as smoke alarms
  • transfer the tenancy to someone else, unless the landlord agrees in writing
  • threaten or assault, or permit any other person to threaten or assault, the landlord, or any member of the landlord’s family, or any agent of the landlord, or another building occupant or neighbor
  • Do anything illegal at the property or let anyone else do anything illegal
  • Change the locks without asking the landlord first.

Fines and penalties for incorrect management

Unlawful discrimination (the interpretation is very broad) $4000

Landlord failing to appoint an agent when out of NZ for more than 21 days $1000

Landlord requiring bond greater than the lawful maximum 4 weeks $1000

Landlord requiring unauthorized form of security $1000

Failure to lodge bond at Bond Centre within 23 working days of receipt $1000

Landlord requiring rent more than 2 weeks in advance $1000

Landlord requiring rent in excess of market rent $200

Failure by landlord to give receipts for rent $200

Landlord seizing or disposing of Tenant’s goods $2000

Interference with privacy of Tenant $2000

Interference with means of escape from fire $3000

Tenant failing to observe, without reasonable excuse, the Tenant’s duties upon termination $1000

Using or permitting premises to be used for unlawful purpose $1000

Harassment of Tenant or Neighbor $2000

Tenant failing to ensure residents do not exceed maximum permitted $1000

Assigning or subletting a tenancy without Landlord’s permission $1000

Landlord fails to meet standards of cleanliness and health and safety $3000

Landlord interfering with supply of services to premises $1000

Altering locks without consent from the other party $1000

Unlawful entry by Landlord $1000

Abandonment of premises without reasonable excuse $1000

Intentional breach of Work Order $3000

Contracting to contravene or evade the provisions of this Act $1000

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