Understand your renting rights

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Renting issues are a frequent area of inquiry for volunteers at Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) Mid Canterbury.

Renting problems often occur because people don’t know their rights and responsibilities as tenants, or as landlords.

Typical inquiries around renting a home featured questions on rent payments, bond refunds, disputes over damage and inspections, and problems with mouldy, damp housing, CAB Mid Canterbury co-ordinator Sarah Clifford said.

It is important and a legal requirement to have a written tenancy agreement and that agreement is the you have any disputes.

It needed to be kept up-to-date and any changes, such as adding or removing any co-tenants, needed to be done.

The best thing to do was to raise any problems with your landlord as soon as possible, Mrs Clifford said.

writing, so that you have a record of the communication,

Other options are available if problems are not sorted within a reasonable time period.

email can sometimes result in action, but if this does not work the tenant can send the landlord a 14-day notice to remedy.”

The notice advises the landlord that they have 14 days to fix the problem, or you may go to the Tenancy Tribunal to sort the matter out.

An application to the Tenancy Tribunal costs around $20.

Mrs Clifford said knowing your rights and responsibilities and having a written agreement was also important when flatting.

A flatting or house sharing agreement was between all the people living in a rented home and did not involve the landlord.

“It should set out things like how much rent and bond each person will pay, who is responsible for lodging the bond, how the chores will be shared and what will happen when someone wants to leave,” she said.

As a tenant, you can’t easily be kicked out by your flatmates, as long as you stick to what is required in the tenancy agreement.

On the down side, if you are a tenant but your flatmates aren’t, then you’re liable for any unpaid rent or damage if they up and leave without paying, Mrs Clifford said.

If your name isn’t on the tenancy agreement, then you are a non-tenant flatmate.

There is a lot of useful information on renting rights and flatting agreements on the cab.org.nz website, Mrs Clifford said. Alternatively local CAB volunteers can be contacted on 3 9288 761 or by email to midcanterbury.cab.org.nz

-By Mick Jensen