How To Rent A House In New Zealand


Hillside Homes in Wellington
Hillside Homes in Wellington

The rent you pay will be influenced by:

The area the house is in.
Areas where wealthy people live, with well-regarded schools, command high rent prices. Areas where poorer people live, and the schools are less well-regarded, command lower rents.

The condition the house is in.
If the kitchen fittings, bathroom fittings and carpets are a bit tired and worn looking you should pay a lower rent.

The size of the flat or house.
As you would expect, bigger costs more.

Jargon
Most New Zealand homes will be described as “apartments”, “units”, “houses”, or “townhouses”.

• An apartment is likely to be a home with other homes above and/or below it in a block.

• A “unit or flat” is likely to be a semi-detached house or a terraced / row house.

• A “house” is likely to be a detached / standalone house.

• A “townhouse” is likely to be a detached / stand-alone house or it might be attached to another house. Townhouses are usually reasonably modern and have smaller gardens than “houses”.

The prices we quote in the price guides are for unfurnished homes. The vast majority of homes for rent in New Zealand are unfurnished. (Unfurnished homes will be carpeted, have some form of heating and have curtains/drapes and a cooker.)

Rental Contracts
There are two common types of rental contract – the fixed term tenancy and the periodic tenancy.

The Fixed Term Tenancy
When you sign a fixed term tenancy, you agree to rent the property for a fixed length of time – say six months or a year. The advantage of a fixed tenancy is that the rent cannot be increased unless there is a clause in the lease – you should make sure there isn’t.

The Periodic Tenancy
A periodic tenancy has no fixed timescale. To end it you must give three weeks notice to the landlord – as an extreme example, the tenancy could last for as little as three weeks if you give notice to quit on the same day as you move in. Or it could last for years. The landlord needs to give you six weeks notice to end your tenancy.

Your landlord needs to give you 60 days notice of a rent increase. Since you can leave after giving him 21 days notice, you have plenty of time to leave before the rent goes up. In practice, rent increases are rare for sitting tenants. Your rent will probably go up only if you are a tenant for more than a year.

Periodic is Best
As a new immigrant, it’s best to keep your options open. It’s better if you only need to give 21 days notice before moving to another house / district / city than having to wait for several months. If any landlord should insist on a long, fixed-term tenancy, it would once have been a good idea to look for another house to rent. Now, however, you’ll find landlords or agencies often insisting that you should take a fixed term tenancy of six months or a year.

Money
After you have signed the tenancy agreement, you will need to hand over money. Lots of money. This consists of:

  • Agency Fee. If you found the house using a real estate agent you will pay them a fee. They usually charge you a sum of money equal to one week’s rent.
  • The bond. A landlord can ask you to pay up to four weeks rent as bond. Two weeks rent is more normal. By law, the landlord has to deposit your bond with the Bond Centre at the Ministry of Housing. He has 23 days to do this. Receipts are sent to both you and the landlord. Put your receipt somewhere safe! After you have moved out, you need your receipt to claim your money back from the Bond Centre. (You will get all your bond money back, provided you don’t damage the house you are renting.)
  • Advance Rent. Rent is usually paid fortnightly. The landlord may ask for up to two weeks’ rent in advance.

Adding it all up.
Let’s say you’re found a flat to rent for $350 per week. What might you have to pay up front?

Adding it all up

Item Possible Cost
Agency Fee $350
Bond – Assume max. bond of 4 weeks’ rent $1,400
Rent in advance $700
TOTAL $2,450

So it might cost you as much as $2,450 before you can move into your $350 per week rental. Be prepared for this cost.

Alternatively, if you find a privately advertised rental in a newspaper, or online you will save on the agency fee. It may also be possible to negotiate better terms with a private landlord.


Comments

  1. If your landlord increases your rent can they ask you for more bond money because they have increased your rent?

    • Hi Andrea,

      Provided the rent increase itself is lawful, then an increase in the bond money is also lawful:

      ‘On the lawful increase of the rent, the landlord may require
      payment by way of bond of a further sum not exceeding the
      amount by which the rent payable for 4 weeks has been increased.’

      Section 18(2) Residential Tenancies Act 1986

  2. Harlow Fallon says:

    Are all rentals paid on a weekly basis? Here in the US rent is usually monthly, unless it is a short-term holiday (vacation) rental.

  3. Hi,

    We are moving to Auckland very soon and will aim to rent a two-bed flat. What sort of documentation will the estate agent expect to see. Is there anything in particular they will want, such as references?

    Thanks,

    Tom

    • Hi Tom,

      Estate agents will typically want to see :

      1. Your passports or other photo ID,
      2. Evidence that you are in employment and / or have the means to pay the rent and,
      3. At least two references / referees, typically showing that you have rented before (and been a good tenant) or have lived in your own property and are of good character.

  4. What references do you give estate agents in NZ if you’ve been a property owner rather than renting in UK? Is a mortgage statement sufficient?

    • Hi Anne,

      If you have not rented a property before but have owned a property, typical suitable documents would be:
      1. Your passports or other photo ID,
      2. Evidence that you are in employment and / or have the means to pay the rent and,
      3. At least two references / referees, typically showing that you have lived in your own property, have kept it in good order and are of good character.

  5. Hi there,
    I’m moving to NZ and have savings to rent a property until I find employment. Can this be done?

    • Hi Doreen,
      Yes you should be able to rent a property. Most rentals are rented out for 12 months, so you may have to show evidence that you can support yourself from savings for this time.

  6. Our family of 4 may relocate from the Minneapolis, Minnesota area of the US to the Auckland area within the next 6 months. We are wondering how similar and/or different housing options will be compared to what we are currently living in. Our 2 story home has a full basement, a living room, dining room, kitchen, dining area, family room, sun room and half-bathroom. The second level
    Consists of 5 bed rooms and 2 full baths.

    Thank you!

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