No written agreement

Question from pamela updated on 19th February 2020:

We are landlords and we gave our tenants a 90-day notice. They came back at us with a 21-day notice a week later. We do not have a written tenancy agreement. We asked for them to pay a two week bond plus one week in advance. But now they are saying they never paid a bond and instead paid weeks rent in advance plus the first weeks rent. Is there anything we can do? Nothing was signed: it was just a verbal agreement and a handshake. Do we have any rights?

Our expert Jennifer Sykes responded:

It is unclear from the information provided whether this is a periodic (ongoing) or fixed-term (set dates) tenancy. A landlord or tenant can only give notice to end a periodic tenancy. You cannot give notice to end a fixed-term tenancy early.

  • While you do not have a tenancy agreement in writing, the Residential Tenancies Act still applies. This means both landlord and tenant still have obligations they will need to adhere to. These include:
  • Any bond charged must be lodged by the landlord with Tenancy Services within 23 days of receiving it. Not doing this is an unlawful act and a landlord could be required to pay a penalty.
  • If a landlord gives the tenant notice to end a periodic tenancy and the tenant wants to move out sooner, the tenant must still give the landlord 21 days’ written notice. This notice should be in writing and signed by the person giving notice.
  • While you can’t give notice to end a fixed-term tenancy early, you can give notice between 21 and 90 days before the end of the fixed term to let the landlord know you do not wish to continue the tenancy after the end date.

You should not enter into any future tenancies without a written tenancy agreement . You can find tenancy agreement templates at

By law, landlords must also ensure they have included the correct insulation statement and healthy homes standards compliance statement. Make sure you are across all your rights and responsibilities by visiting You can also subscribe to our e-newsletter Tenancy Matters here.  

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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