Renting? Know your rights

One of the common enquiries the Helensville Citizens Advice Bureau receives is from tenants seeking clarification over just what rights they have and what obligations their landlord has, particularly over access to the property.
Here are some basic rules, which when followed, should ensure a happy tenancy for all.
Access to property
Landlords must give at least 48 hours notice to inspect the property and can only carry out a house inspection every four weeks. If they are coming around to do any repairs, they have to give 24 hours notice. Any visits or maintenance must be carried out between 8am and 7pm.
If the landlord is going overseas for more than three weeks, then they have to appoint an agent to act on their behalf. This is the person the tenant can contact if they need to during the landlord’s absence.
Repairs and Maintenance
Landlords have a responsibility to keep the premises in a reasonable state of repair and comply with all building, health and safety laws. If the tenant needs an urgent and serious repair for damage that’s not their fault, then they have to do their best to contact the landlord. But, if they can’t get hold of them, then the tenant can get the work done and the landlord has to compensate them.
Since July last year landlords have a responsibility to have the right type of smoke alarm installed in the right places. They need to be the ten-year, long-life models that comply with certain standards. There should be a smoke alarm within three metres of each bedroom. For their part, tenants have a responsibility not to damage, remove or disconnect a smoke alarm and to make sure the batteries are working.
Also, since July last year, it is the landlord’s responsibility to include in the tenancy agreement a statement about insulation - whether there is any and what condition it is in. From July 2019 it will be mandatory for all rental homes to have ceiling and underfloor insulation.
Rent and other bills
Landlords must supply a written and signed tenancy agreement and inform the tenants in writing of any rent increases, but they can only review the rent every 180 days. The rent can’t be increased if there is a fixed-term agreement until the end of that period.
As a tenant you are responsible for paying the rent on time, and for the power, gas and phone bills and water usage charges if there is a meter to measure how much water is used.
The landlord is responsible for paying the fixed water charges.
Selling the property
Landlords must tell the tenant in writing if they intend to put the property on the market.
Tenants have to give permission before landlords or real estate agents show prospective buyers or registered valuers through the house. While tenants can’t unreasonably refuse access, they can ask to be present during open homes, or insist that the property is shown by appointment only.
If the buyer of a property wants it sold as ‘vacant possession’ the landlord who’s selling the house must give the tenant at least 42 days written notice to end the tenancy so it will be empty for the new owner.
However, if there is a fixed–term tenancy then either side is unable to end the tenancy early, unless both parties agree. So, if the property is sold while being rented for a fixed-term, then the property must be sold with the tenancy and tenants in place and the new owners becomes the landlord until the fixed- term runs out.
When disputes happen
The best advice is to keep good records of any dealings over the property, including property inspections and rent payments. The Tenancy Tribunal is there to help resolve disputes. You can apply online at the Tenancy Services website or by picking up a form from the Citizens Advice Bureau.
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