Can the date be amended on a fixed term contract?

Hannah asks:
(updated on Tuesday, April 12th 2011)

We are university students and have been flatting in an apartment building for 2 years now. In 2009 we first moved in, and our property manager told us that he only does 12 month fixed leases and that we would have to sign for 12 months and pay for the apartment over summer. Being naive we signed the contract and believed him, however, all of the other students in 5 other apartments in our block all left over summer and we were stuck paying for ours. (Despite none of us actually being in the apartment as we are all out of town). Anyway. In February this year, we got given a 2nd contract to sign. It was identical to the 2009 year, however, before signing it we changed the date to a preferable date in which we could move out (i.e. 1st Dec 2010). Our landlord never got hold of us until last week to say it goes until january 2010...all of the other people in our block move out in December!! What can we do?

Our Experts Answer:

The end date of your tenancy will be the date that was agreed to between the parties when the agreement was signed. From what you have described in your question, it sounds like your landlord signed the agreement with one date on it, but that you changed the date on it before you signed it. If you did not reach an agreement with your landlord as to the end date for the tenancy, you may need to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved.

I suggest discussing the matter with your landlord to see if you can come to an agreement over when the tenancy will end. If you do reach an agreement with your landlord you should record the details on the tenancy agreement and both parties should sign it. If both parties cannot agree what date the fixed term tenancy will end, either party could apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the matter resolved.

To discuss your situation further, or for information about fixed term tenancies, you can visit the Department of Building and Housing website (www.dbh.govt.nz), or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

The Department of Building and Housing provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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