The Residential Tenancies Act applies if you’re renting a place to live in, except in certain cases. The Act protects landlords and tenants, but not flatmates.

The Residential Tenancies Act (the Act):

  • covers the relationship between landlords and tenants
  • outlines their rights and responsibilities
  • provides a system for helping resolve tenancy disputes.

The Act protects tenants, not flatmates

A tenant is someone who rents a house from a landlord.

Sometimes a few people rent a house and live together, so they all sign the tenancy agreement and become tenants together. This means they’re all responsible for the tenancy and for meeting their responsibilities under the Act.

Anyone who lives at the property, but isn’t named on the tenancy agreement, is a flatmate. This means they’re not covered by the Act.

Flatmates’ rights

The Act covers boarding houses

Boarding houses are covered by the Act, but some special rules apply.

Boarding house tenancies

The Act covers unlawful residential premises

Unlawful residential premises are properties that cannot lawfully be lived in generally or by the tenant. This includes where:

  • the property isn’t consented for residential use, requires a change of use, or there is another legal reason that the property cannot be lived in generally or by the tenant
  • there is unconsented building work that means the property cannot lawfully be lived in
  • the property has been deemed unsafe and unsanitary by the local authority.

Examples of properties that may not be able to be lawfully lived in by a tenant include:

  • a garage
  • a property in a commercial premises such as office buildings
  • a minor dwelling, such as a ‘granny flat’ or ‘family flat’
  • a single home that has been split into two separate self-contained homes.

Tenants can give the landlord two days’ notice to end a tenancy if the premises was unlawful at the start of the tenancy and is still unlawful. The Tenancy Tribunal also has full jurisdiction over cases that concern unlawful residential premises.

It is important that landlords ensure that the property they are renting can lawfully be lived in by a tenant before they rent the property. If there are any concerns about whether the property is lawful, both landlords and tenants can approach the relevant local council.

The Act doesn’t cover some types of living arrangements

Some types of living arrangements, like student accommodation, are not covered by the Act.

Who tenancy law doesn’t protect

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