Exiting a Fixed-Term Tenancy

Mark asks:
(updated on Wednesday, October 12th 2011)

I am currently co signed to a fixed term lease with two other guys. My partner whom I live with is pregnant. When we found out she was pregnant we gave the co tenants two months to find a suitable replacement themselves before we found someone ourselves. Due to the cost of the room and a distint lack of action they were unable to find somone for the room. We have since advertised ourselves for a replacement and found three people that have wanted the room over ten weeks of advertising. The room is $285 a week and only attracting professionals (Doctors etc) but the other tenants are not accepting these people as suitable and not cooperating in meeting potential replacements. I have moved out due to the co tenants smoking cannibus in the house with my preganat partner in the house but have continued to pay rent as the landlord threatened debt collectors when I tried to give notice under hardship.What rights do we have in this situation?

Our Experts Answer:

It can be difficult to obtain release from a fixed-term tenancy as it cannot be terminated by notice. You need agreement from all the other parties (that is, the landlord and the other tenants) in order to assign your tenancy to a new tenant. It can be difficult to reach an agreement with everyone involved, and landlords can still hold all tenants responsible for the tenancy until the tenancy ends (e.g. for rent, damage, etc.).

A landlord cannot unreasonably withhold consent to assign a tenancy, unless the tenancy agreement expressly prohibits it, but the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 does not cover the relationship between tenants, or between tenants and flatmates. I suggest you contact your local community law centre or Citizens Advice Bureau to discuss any concerns relating to your agreement with the other tenants.

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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