If you’re renting for the first time, make sure you enter an agreement that works for you. Find out what else you should know as a new tenant.

These easy-to-read guides will help you understand renting:

Tenants - Know your rights! (available in 16 languages)

Renting and You (available in 6 languages)

Short guide to good renting (available in 6 languages)

Understanding the difference between tenants and flatmates

It's important to know the difference between tenants and flatmates, and how the law applies to you. 

If you sign a tenancy agreement with a landlord, you're a tenant. You are legally responsible for the place and you're covered by the Residential Tenancies Act.

You're a flatmate if:

  • someone else signs the tenancy agreement but lets you share the flat
  • a homeowner asks you to live in their house with them and rents a room to you.

Flatmates are not covered by the Act. 

'Flatting' has more information.

Finding the right property

It’s not always easy to find a flat or house, especially one that meets all your needs. To help you find the right property, you could:

  • Search on the internet.
  • Look in the 'To let' column in the classifieds section of your local newspaper.
  • Place an ad in the paper to say you’re looking for a property.
  • Ask family, friends and co-workers if they know someone who’s looking for tenants.
  • Post notices locally. This could be at your local dairy, community noticeboard, supermarket, polytechnic, university or wānanga. Have a look at local social media pages, or post to your networks.
  • Ask at real estate agencies and property management companies.

The new tenant’s checklist [PDF, 184 KB] will help you choose the rental property that’s best for you, your budget and your lifestyle.

Choose a landlord who meets their responsibilities

It’s important to get along with your landlord so that you’re comfortable raising any issues. Before you agree to rent from them, find out as much as you can about them.

While viewing the property, ask the landlord about recent maintenance or repairs that have been done. This will give you an idea of how reliable the landlord is at fixing problems.

Search for Tenancy Tribunal orders on the Ministry of Justice website(external link) to find out if the landlord has been involved in disputes in the past.

If you’re in any doubt about the landlord being a good landlord, look somewhere else.

Landlords can’t discriminate against you

Landlords can’t decide to not rent to you or end your tenancy for reasons that breach the Human Rights Act.

Read about tenancy discrimination

Signing the tenancy agreement

Read the tenancy agreement carefully (including the terms and any conditions) before you sign it. Only sign a tenancy agreement when you’re sure you want the property. Keep a signed copy of the agreement and any receipts in a safe place.

Tenancy agreements

Make sure you have the landlord’s contact details. If you want to, you can ask them to complete a contact details form [DOC, 261 KB]

Inspect the property with your landlord and record the condition and any damage. This is a good time to ask any questions you have about the property. To get the most out of renting, you need to be prepared to talk with your landlord. By raising any issues straight away, you can help prevent problems later on.

Initial property inspection

Paying rent and bond

Rent is what you pay to the landlord for the right to live in their property. You will normally pay either weekly or fortnightly.

The bond can be up to four weeks’ rent. It is held by Tenancy Services for the length of the tenancy. If you look after the property and pay your rent, you should get the bond refunded at the end of the tenancy.

It’s important to work out what you can afford before renting a property. For example, if your weekly rent is $250 you may need to pay upfront costs of:

  • four weeks’ rent as bond ($1,000) and
  • two weeks’ rent in advance ($500).

Charging rent

Charging a bond

Insurance, bills and other details

Consider getting contents insurance that includes personal liability. This will protect you and your belongings in certain situations.

You’ll need to get services connected to the property such as electricity, gas, internet and phone. If you’re paying the landlord for water charges, record the water meter reading at the start of the tenancy on the property inspection report and in the tenancy agreement.

Make sure you have a set of keys, find out when rubbish and recycling is collected and get your mail redirected.

Insurance information

Utilities and other payments

Making changes to the property

You must get consent from the landlord before making changes to the property. From 11 February 2021 under the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020, tenants can request, in writing, to make minor changes to the rental property and landlords must not decline if the change is minor. Landlords can, however, set reasonable conditions.

Tenants making changes to the property

Operating a home business

Your rental property should be used mainly for residential purposes (i.e for living in). If you want to use part of the property for a home business you should check whether operating the business complies with local bylaws, council zoning and land use requirements.

You should also speak to your landlord and check your tenancy agreement. Some tenancy agreements may not allow tenants to use part of the property for a business. This may be because it will have an impact on your landlord’s insurance.

If you do operate a business from your rental property, you still need to meet all of your obligations as a tenant under the Residential Tenancies Act.

Keeping records

It’s important for both landlords and tenants to keep accurate receipts and records related to the tenancy. These can help clear up any issues. Landlords must also keep records for tax purposes. 

Receipts and accurate records