Co-tenancy issue

Question from Christine updated on 7th August 2013:

My daughter was in England when her tenancy agreement was renewed. Before agreeing to be on the new contract she rung her landlord and emailed the other tenants with the condition that she and her new husband would only be in the flat for a short time until they could find their own place. They would find a tenant to take her place. All parties agreed to this and she allowed her flatmates to sign her signature for her (silly girl). The other tenants are now refusing to let her leave even though she and her husband have their own place and have found plenty of tenants to take her place and the landlord says she is happy for her name to be taken off the agreement but doesn't know how and refers her to the letting agent, who refers her back to the landlord. This is extremely upsetting for her and is putting a huge amount of stress on her and her husband. They cannot afford to pay two lots of rent. What can they do?

Our expert Alan Bruce responded:

In the case of a fixed-term tenancy, tenants may be released from the tenancy agreement with the mutual consent of the landlord and all of the listed tenants, or by the Tenancy Tribunal in certain circumstances. Where an agreement between the tenants/flatmates cannot be established, all tenants will continue to be responsible for the tenancy. In the case of a periodic tenancy (a tenancy that is not for a fixed-term), tenants may give the landlord a minimum of 21 days’ written notice to terminate the tenancy (however, where more than one tenant is listed on the tenancy agreement, a notice given by any of the tenants will terminate the entire tenancy - it is therefore recommended that tenants in this situation agree to any notice prior). As a notice to terminate a periodic tenancy must be in writing, service times must be allowed for, and a copy of the notice retained. Information about service times can be found on the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment’s website (http://www.dbh.govt.nz/tenancy-az-s). While the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act) applies to the relationship between a landlord and tenant(s), the Act does not cover the relationship between a tenant and their flatmates. Where a dispute arises between tenants and flatmates, the affected parties may wish to contact the Citizens Advice Bureau (0800 367 222) or their local Community Law Centre (www.communitylaw.org.nz) for further advice. To discuss your daughter’s situation further, or for information about fixed-term or periodic tenancies, you can visit the Ministry’s website (as noted above), or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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