Property Management

New renters' guide for tenants

Far too many tenants are not aware of their obligations around their rental property so a new guide aims to spell out what they need to know and do.

Wednesday, September 23rd 2020

REINZ chief executive Bindi Norwell

There’s a number of contentious rental property issues that cause disputes between landlords and tenants on a regular basis.

Just take a look at some Tenancy Tribunal rulings and you’ll see just how often disagreements over cleaning and maintenance of rental properties are the root cause of problems.

Unfortunately, many tenants – and some landlords – are not aware of their responsibilities in this area.

That’s why REINZ has today launched a new plain English guide for first-time renters.

REINZ chief executive Bindi Norwell says the aim of the guide is to try and reduce the number of cases that end up in the Tribunal for issues that could be resolved earlier.

Renting can be a confusing and daunting process, so the guide outlines some of the key questions people have before they sign an agreement, during their tenancy and when they want to leave their rental property, she says.

“For example, one of the biggest areas of confusion is around cleaning when you leave your rental property. The rules are very clear – the property does not need to be professionally cleaned but needs to be left in a reasonably clean condition.

“But time and time again, there are disputes around cleaning. This means paying attention to areas such as the kitchens, oven, bathrooms, skirtings/windowsills and if the lawns/grounds are part of your responsibility, these should be mowed and tidy.”

The guide covers key areas such as the level of bond a landlord or property manager can ask for, the Healthy Homes Standards, insurance, notice to inspect and how many weeks rent can be asked for in advance.

It also covers issues such as concerns around maintenance and repairs and retaliatory notices.

Norwell says one thing they hear time and time again is that tenants don’t report issues with the property to their landlord or property manager in a timely manner.

“The guide points out that tenants have a legal responsibility to report any repairs or maintenance required to the property to the landlord or property manager in order to prevent further damage."

However, the guide also explains what tenants should expect from landlords and property managers.

Norwell says it makes it extremely clear that the landlord or property manager has a responsibility to present the home in a reasonable condition, to fix issues in a timely manner and that they can’t give tenants' notice to vacate a property in relation to raising a maintenance issue.

“With so many changes to legislation relating to rental properties over the last few years it’s essential that tenants understand their rights and know what their landlord or property manager should or shouldn’t be doing.”

Tenants should be aware there are further changes to come under the RTA Amendment Act 2020, the majority of those commencing 11 February 2021, and some of which are covered off in the guide, she adds.

The REINZ guide is not the only option available for tenants who are keen to learn more about their responsibilities. The Tenancy Services website features a range of easy-to-understand information for tenants (and landlords).

In some parts of the country, notably Hawkes Bay and Palmerston North, a number of organisations (including local property investor associations) run a programme for tenants called “Ready to Rent”. 

The programme upskills tenants in what they need to know to be a good tenant. On completion of the programme, participants are provided with a "support letter" they can use when applying for tenancies in the future.

*The REINZ guide is available to download here.

Read more:

Roll out renters education course – NZPIF 

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