Your rights with renting problems like maintenance or bond issues and how to solve them.

If you're having problems with the renting process, eg struggling to get your landlord to fix a problem, or sort out a bond issue, follow these steps:

  1. Contact your landlord/property manager: Many issues can be solved at this step.
  2. Give them a notice to remedy letter: Put your complaint in writing with a deadline to fix the issue.
  3. Contact Tenancy Services: Make your agreement official or get help with dispute resolution.

If you're new to renting and want to avoid problems down the track, check out:

Preparing to rent

1. Contact your landlord/property manager

Before you do, read our information on:

  • your rights and responsibilities
  • how to complain.

Your rights

Tenants and landlords have rights and responsibilities under the The Residential Tenancies Act.

Landlords must:

  • respect the tenants' privacy, eg the landlord can visit the outside of the property but cannot enter the house without giving 24 hours notice, unless it's an emergency
  • keep the property in a reasonable condition, eg fix issues like a broken oven or leaky roof
  • meet health and safety standards
  • handle items left at the property in the right way, eg ask the tenant to collect their things
  • let tenants know if the property is for sale
  • assign an agent, eg a property manager, if they are out of the country for more than 21 days.

Landlords cannot:

  • take your things
  • interfere with a tenant's reasonable peace, comfort and privacy, eg turning up announced
  • get in the way of services to the property, eg power, gas, internet.

Tenants must:

  • pay rent on time
  • keep the property reasonably clean and tidy during the tenancy and leave it clean and tidy at the end of the tenancy
  • tell the landlord about any damage or repairs straight away
  • pay for their own bills
  • leave all keys with the landlord
  • leave all items that came with the property, eg curtains, fridge.

Tenants cannot:

  • stop paying rent if the landlord hasn't done repairs
  • damage the property
  • disturb the neighbours or other tenants
  • make changes to the property without the landlord's written consent (for minor changes that can be reversed, landlords must agree, but can set reasonable conditions) 
  • use the property for illegal purposes
  • have more than the maximum number of people in the tenancy agreement living in the property.

Tenants and landlords must:

  • make sure the tenancy agreement is in writing
  • keep their contact details up to date
  • not change locks without permission.

Difference between flatmate and tenant

If you are not named on the lease/tenancy agreement you are not a tenant, you are a flatmate. Flatmates are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act.

They are not responsible to the landlord for the rent or the state of the property. They are responsible to the tenant for their share of the rent.

If you have a problem as a flatmate which you cannot resolve yourself, eg another flatmate or tenant has damaged something you own, you cannot take your complaint to Tenancy Services. You need to apply to the Disputes Tribunal instead.

Disputes Tribunal — Take your complaint further

For more information on tenants and flatmates, see Tenancy Services.

Flatting(external link) — Tenancy Services

Example — Reasonable condition

Peter's shower isn't working. He's on the tenancy agreement and calls his landlord to tell her. When it hasn't been fixed a few weeks later, he checks the Tenancy Services website to check if he can stop paying rent. He sees that he can't stop paying rent, but his landlord does have a responsibility keep the house in a reasonable condition and fix the shower. Peter calls his landlord again and says it’s a serous inconvenience and he may go to the Tenancy Tribunal if it’s not sorted. She gets a plumber to the house that week. 

How to complain

Before you contact your landlord or property manager:

  • Check your tenancy agreement —this will help you understand what you can expect from your landlord and if all of the rules are in line with the Residential Tenancies Act, eg are there any unenforceable clauses. We have more information on unenforceable clauses on our Preparing to rent page.
  • Gather proof, eg your bank statements, dates and details of conversations with your landlord and Tenancy Services, photos of damage, texts, emails.
  • Think about what you will say, make some notes with points you want to cover.
  • Decide your ideal outcome, eg an apology, maintenance taken care of, an end to the tenancy agreement.

Preparing to rent

During the conversation:

  • Take notes — however you contact your landlord/property manager, take notes and dates. If you need to take your complaint to the Tenancy Tribunal, this will be helpful proof.
  • Stick to the facts — explain the problem in detail and share any proof you collected.
  • Tell them what you want — be clear what you expect to fix your concern.
  • Take time out, if needed — if the conversation is getting heated or you need time to consider their response, arrange a time to call, email or message back. Explain you need time out to digest the conversation.
  • Make agreements official — if you reach an agreement, write down what you've agreed. Make sure you both sign and date it.

For in-depth information about how to resolve the issue yourself, see the Tenancy Services website.

Self-resolution(external link) — Tenancy Services

2. Notice to remedy letter

If a landlord breaks the rules under the Residential Tenancies Act you can give them a notice to remedy letter.

This is a letter or email that tells the landlord/property manager:

  • what the problem is
  • what needs to happen to fix it (the remedy)
  • a deadline for it to be fixed.

A landlord/property manager can issue the same kind of notice to a tenant.

If the landlord/property manager does not address the issue by the deadline, you can take your complaint to Tenancy Services.

Tenancy Services has information and templates to help you issue a notice to remedy. This includes what is and isn't allowed in the Residential Tenancies Act.

Breach of the Residential Tenancies Act(external link) — Tenancy Services

Example – Notice to remedy for maintenance

Sarah's oven in her rental has two elements that aren't working. She has tried to get the landlord to fix them, but he won't call her back. Sarah issues the landlord a 14-day notice to remedy asking for an electrician to be called. The landlord does not meet the 14-day notice and Sarah applies to the Tenancy Tribunal, using her notice as evidence.

3. Tenancy Services

If you are a flatmate, ie you are not on the lease, take your complaint to the Disputes Tribunal, not Tenancy Services.

Disputes Tribunal — Take your complaint further

This government agency can help you tackle problems yourself, or with more formal dispute resolution.

FastTrack Resolution

If you come to an agreement with your landlord, either through a conversation or a 14-day notice to remedy, you can apply to Tenancy Services to make your agreement official.

FastTrack Resolution(external link) — Tenancy Services

Dispute resolution

If a conversation or a 14-day notice to remedy don't resolve the issue, Tenancy Services can provide:

  • Mediation: Tenants and landlords talk with a mediator, usually by a three-way phone conference, and come to an agreement together. Mediators don't decide on the outcome, but the people involved can agree on the outcomes of the mediation.
  • Hearing with the Tenancy Tribunal: A decision is made by an adjudicator (like a judge) and must be followed by both the landlord and tenant.

When you apply to Tenancy Services you can let them know how you'd like your complaint to be handled, eg FastTrack Resolution, mediation, or they may choose for you.

Making an application(external link) — Tenancy Services

Possible outcomes

The Tenancy Tribunal might:

  • End a tenancy: Break the term of the tenancy to end it early.
  • Order payment: From the tenant to the landlord or vice versa, eg overdue rent, reimbursement of costs for repairs, compensation for damages.
  • Order work: Repairs or maintenance by either the tenant or landlord, eg fix leaky roof, patch a hole in the wall.

Types of Tenancy Tribunal orders(external link) — Tenancy Services

Example — Roof fixed after mediation

Michael complains to his landlord about a leak in the roof. The landlord doesn't get back to him, so Michael sends him a 14-day notice to remedy. The landlord still doesn't respond. In this time the leak has started to cause damage to Michael's furniture. He applied to the Tenancy Tribunal. A mediation meeting is organised. During the meeting with the mediator the landlord agrees to fix the roof, and compensate Michael for his damaged furniture.

Example — Blank bond form

Before they move out of their house, Erena and her flatmates meet their landlord to sign the bond refund form. The landlord has not inspected the property yet, and has not filled in the bond refund amount. Erena suggests the tenants sign the form, as it will be difficult to get the form to all of them after they have moved out. When the landlord does the inspection he writes in the bond refund form that there was damage to the carpet costing half the bond. Erena calls Tenancy Services. She is told she will have to accept the amount the landlord is suggesting. This is because Erena and the other tenants signed the refund form before the amount was filled in.

More help

Get support at any point from:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) — a free, independent service, run by volunteers. CAB can advise you on your consumer rights and obligations, in person, by phone, or online.

Find a CAB near you(external link)  — Citizens Advice Bureau

  • Community Law Centre: Free one-on-one legal advice to people with limited finances. The organisation has 24 community law centres throughout the country. You can find legal information and other resources on its website.

Our law centres(external link) — Community Law Centre