Previous tenant owes rent, what can I do?

Kevin asks:
(updated on Friday, October 20th 2006)

1)When a tenant leaves owing rent and the bond is insufficient to cover it, what is the best course of action to recover it? There was no written tenancy agreement, only verbal and not sure of where they have gone. 2)How long after leaving can you still look chase them for payment?

Our Experts Answer:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act verbal agreements are binding. If a landlord has a claim for rent arrears or damage that is over and above the bond held in trust by the Department of Building and Housing, they should make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal. An application to the Tenancy Tribunal should be made within 60 days of tenancy ending (this is in line with the NZ Post re-direction service). If an application is made more than 60 days after the tenancy has ended, the applicant would have to supply a physical address for service for the tenant to enable the Department to serve notices.

You can make an application online at and pay the $20 application fee with your Visa or MasterCard. You can also complete a paper form and send by mail to PO box 50546 Porirua, fax to 04 237 1058, or email to You must pay the $20 application fee at Westpac bank before submitting your application. Forms and information are available from the Department of Building and Housing free phone 0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62) or from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

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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