Subletting problems

Question from Gabriel updated on 31st January 2020:

I have sub let my room to another tenant and in the process I signed a tenancy agreement with her so I believe I am in a sub landlord sub tenant relationship. The question I have is this: The outgoings are normally shared with other legal tenants but I didn't specifically mentioned in the tenancy agreement. She is aware of the cost share arrangement but she hasn't paid the outgoings for four months until the last month of the tenancy. She is now disputing it was written in the tenancy agreement. Can I dispute this through Tenancy Tribunal?

Our expert Jennifer Sykes responded:

Subletting is usually where the tenant moves out of the house they're renting and on-rents the house to someone else, but can include situations where a tenant rents part of the house out while they still live there, such as for holiday accommodation. If you want to sublet to someone else, check that your tenancy agreement allows you to do this. Some agreements prohibit subletting. Even if your agreement doesn’t prohibit subletting, you’ll still need to get the landlord’s written consent to do it.

In a subletting situation, you are still responsible as a tenant under the original tenancy agreement and at the same time you are the landlord to the replacement tenant. You should have a written agreement with the sub-tenant. However, having a flatmate living at the property is not seen as subletting. This is because a flatmate shares the property and facilities with the tenant. Flatmates live in the property, but are not part of the original tenancy agreement.

Flat-sharing agreements between tenants and other flatmates are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act because they are not technically tenancy agreements. You will need to make sure that where you invited someone in as a flatmate to live with you that you are not exceeding the maximum number of occupants allowed on the tenancy agreement (if there is a maximum). Any agreements between tenants about how bills such as the power and internet are paid are also not covered by renting law.

The dispute about bill money can be heard by the Disputes Tribunal as only landlord-tenant disputes are heard by the Tenancy Tribunal. For more information on subletting and flatting, go to https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/ending-a-tenancy/subletting/ and https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/starting-a-tenancy/flatting/. 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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