Before renting there's a lot to think about. You need to:
- find a place and put in an application
- find money for bond, rent in advance and getting set up
- sign the tenancy agreement and pay your bond.
Finding a rental — be prepared
There are lots of things to consider when finding a rental. The location, price, size, accessibility and if the rental is furnished, all matter. Landlords don't have to provide appliances like washing machines, microwaves and fridges but some do.
Depending on how tight the market is, it could take multiple applications to secure a place.
You might need to make decisions quickly. Prevent last-minute stress by having your paperwork ready before you visit a house.
Landlords and property managers might ask for:
- Pre-tenancy application form — if there isn't a link on the property advert, ask the landlord/property manager to send it to you. Bring a filled out copy with you to the open home to apply on the spot.
- Referees — list a previous landlord as one of your referees. This gives information about what you are like as a tenant. Other referees could be your employer or senior colleague, a teacher or lecturer, or coach. Make sure you ask your referees first, check if they're available to talk to the landlord, and their contact details are correct.
- Rental history — write down dates and addresses of your previous homes, including why you left each property.
- Proof of income — a payslip or bank statement will work. If you don't want to show your entire bank statement you can cover entries so the landlord can only see what they need to. This is called a redacted bank statement.
- Credit check — the landlord/property manager will do this, but they need your permission.
- Photo identification — drivers license, passport, Kiwi Access card.
Decisions from the Tenancy Tribunal are public. Consider telling a potential landlord about your past cases before they find it themselves.
What a landlord can ask you
Landlords must respect your privacy rights when they ask you questions.
The Privacy Act says your landlord or property manager:
- Can ask you for information that is relevant to finding a tenant, eg your name, proof of identity, pet ownership. This can sometimes extend to things like for proof of income as this gives them information about whether you will be able to pay the rent consistently.
- Cannot ask you for personal information that is irrelevant to your tenancy, eg your political opinion, relationship status or sexual orientation. If they ask for this kind of information and then use it to make a decision, they might be breaching the Residential Tenancies Act due to discrimination.
- Must tell you why they're collecting the information — including what it will be used for and who they will share it with.
If you aren't happy with what your landlord is asking for or how they intend to use the information, tell them. Remind them they have responsibilities under the Privacy Act. You can complain to Tenancy Services' Compliance team or the Privacy Commission. You can get advice from both before deciding who to complain to.
Contact Compliance team(external link) — Tenancy Services
Making a complaint(external link) — Privacy Commission
The costs of renting
Be realistic about how much rent you can pay. Work out a budget with the average costs of your expenses to see how much you can afford. Expenses could include:
- food, eg groceries, takeaways and dining out
- bills, eg internet, power, gas, water
- other regular payments, eg hire purchase, car loan, personal loan, Afterpay
- spending money, eg clothes, haircuts, movies
- travel, eg public transport, petrol, parking.
Cheaper rent could mean higher travel costs. Take this into account when looking at locations.
For more budgeting help, see Sorted's budgeting tools.
Budgeting tool(external link) — Sorted
Limits to rent
Landlords cannot charge significantly more than market rent. Market rent is based on the rent of similar properties in similar areas and gives an estimate of what you might expect to pay. Find out a market rent estimate in your area at Tenancy Services.
Market rent(external link) — Tenancy Services
If you think you are being charged significantly higher than market rent, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to ask for the rent to be reduced.
Making an application(external link) — Tenancy services
It is illegal for a landlord or property manager to charge a letting fee. If you paid a letting fee after 12 December 2018 you can make a complaint to the Tenancy Tribunal.
Making an application(external link) — Tenancy Services
Landlords can charge you:
- bond — up to four weeks rent
- rent in advance — up to two weeks. If you pay rent in advance, your next rent payment comes out after the rent in advance has been used.
Other start-up costs might include:
- moving costs
- utility connection fees, eg gas, power, internet
- buying or renting appliances, eg buying a fridge if the rental doesn't include one
- insurance, eg contents insurance to cover your belongings, personal liability insurance to protect you if you or another tenant damage the house.
For more information on utilities, see our page on Electricity and gas services.
Electricity and gas services
What landlords must provide
There are a number of rules setting out what landlords must provide, including:
- Locks and security, ie the property must be reasonably secure.
- Heating, ie there must be a form of heating in the living room.
- Smoke alarms, eg within 3 metres of each bedroom door, or in every room where a person sleeps.
- Insulation — from 1 July 2019.
Insulation(external link) — Tenancy Services
Landlords do not have to provide appliances like a fridge or washing machine, unless this is on your tenancy contract.
For more information on what landlords must provide, see:
Laws and bylaws(external link) — Tenancy Services
A tenancy agreement is a contract that sets out the rules of the tenancy, eg the beginning and end dates in a fixed term tenancy, rules around pets. It is signed by both the landlord and tenants.
There are key things every tenancy agreement must have, eg full names and contact details of the landlord and tenants, the bond amount, a statement detailing insulation levels.
Tenancy agreements(external link) — Tenancy Services
Extra rules: landlords can add extra rules and clauses to the tenancy agreement but they need to be in line with the Residential Tenancies Act. A rule that does not follow the Act is an unenforceable clause. Landlords/property managers cannot make you follow these rules.
It's often hard to decide if a clause is unenforceable. To find out, visit the Tenancy Services website.
Unenforceable clauses(external link) — Tenancy Services
Find out what you can do to resolve problems with your landlord or property manager.
Solving issues with your landlord or property manager