Non-written tenancy agreement

Question from Phil updated on 2nd December 2019:

We have had a tenant abscond without written notice. He didn’t have a written tenancy agreement as he would not provide written references or his drivers licence for us to check and verify his identity. He did pay his rent most of the time since moving in last July. But my question is - was he a tenant and did we have an agreement even though it was not a written one?




Our expert Jennifer Sykes responded:

The Residential Tenancies Act still applies even if a tenancy agreement isn’t in writing. This means both landlord and tenant can’t avoid their obligations under the law. In this instance, should you wish to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for rent arrears or other breaches of the Act, supporting documents - including correspondence with the tenant - would need to be provided for the application to be heard.

For future reference, it is recommended you do not accept a prospective tenant unless they comply with reasonable requests for information. The Tenancy Services website has a pre-tenancy application form ( which will help in the collection of that information.

For more information on tenant and landlord responsibilities, requirements under the Act and applying to the Tenancy Tribunal, go to You can also subscribe to our e-newsletter Tenancy Matters at

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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