Some types of living arrangements aren’t covered by the Act.

The Act applies to every tenancy for residential purposes (renting a place to live in), except in certain cases. The Act doesn’t cover, for example, flatmates, student accommodation, properties which cannot lawfully be used for residential purposes (like an illegally converted garage), holiday homes, hotels and motels, hospitals and rest-homes, or commercial tenancies.

Residential Tenancies Act (external link) is on the New Zealand Legislation website.

The Act doesn’t cover flatmates

If a homeowner finds someone to live in their house with them and rents a room to them, that person is a flatmate. Their living arrangement isn’t covered by the Act.

If a few people rent a house together but some of them don’t sign the tenancy agreement, those who don’t sign aren’t tenants. They’re considered flatmates and their living arrangement isn’t covered by the Act.

Flatting has more on the difference between tenants and flatmates.

The Act doesn’t cover student accommodation

Student hostels and halls of residence operated by or for a tertiary education provider aren’t usually covered by the Act.

The Act doesn’t cover properties which cannot lawfully be used for residential purposes like an illegally converted garage

The Act doesn’t apply when the property being rented cannot lawfully be used for residential purposes.

Rentals that cannot be lawfully used for residential purposes could include illegally converted garages, unconsented dwellings and commercial properties used for residential use.

Recent Tenancy Tribunal decisions about unlawful rental premises are finding they are not covered by the Act and so any rent paid for such premises is illegal. In these cases, the Tribunal has been awarding rent refunds to tenants and exemplary damages of up to $1,000 under section 137 (‘Prohibited Transactions’).

The Act doesn’t cover holiday homes

The Act doesn’t apply when the house is being rented for the tenant’s holiday purposes. In other words, the tenant actually lives somewhere else and is just staying in the house for a holiday.

If someone’s letting a house for holiday purposes, the common law of contract applies. They should negotiate the terms and conditions in writing, and make sure both parties sign copies of the agreement. They should also make sure the person renting the holiday home pays a deposit.

Some homeowners use specialised holiday home agencies to manage the entire process of finding and contracting with holiday-making tenants. These agencies usually have standard-form letting contracts governing the relationship between the tenant and the letting agent that’s acting for the homeowner.

Typically, holiday houses are let for short periods. If the homeowner wants to let their home to someone who wants it for a lengthy sabbatical or holiday, they could elect to ‘contract into’ the Residential Tenancies Act to avoid any doubt about whether the Act applies to their arrangement.

How to get tenancy law to cover you has information on how to get the Act to apply to a situation that’s normally not covered.

Other situations not covered by the Act

The Act doesn’t apply to:

  • hotels and motels
  • hospitals, care facilities and rest-homes
  • commercial tenancies (places rented to operate a business from, rather than as a place to live)

Section 5 of the Act (external link) explains all the different situations the Act doesn’t apply to.

Who tenancy law protects

If a residential tenancy isn’t one of types mentioned above or in section 5 of the Act, then it’s most likely covered by the Act.

Who tenancy law protects has information about who is covered by the Act.