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Rent & Bond

Rent & Bond

There are lots of costs when you first move into a new property. Often landlords will ask you to pay a whole lot of your rent in advance. They will usually also ask you to pay a ‘bond’, which you’ll hopefully get back when you leave the property. There will also be other costs and it’s helpful to know why all these costs are there. It’s also important to know the limits on what your landlord can ask you for.

What is a bond?

A bond is money the landlord (or head tenant) can ask you for before you move in. This money is there to protect the landlord (or head tenant) in case you cause any damages or don’t pay the rent. If the house has been looked after well and the rent paid, then you’ll get the bond back when you leave. The landlord cannot ask you for a bond which amounts to more than four weeks of rent and must give you a receipt for the bond you’ve pay.

Can the landlord hold the bond?

The landlord does not keep the bond – they must send it to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) within 23 days. This is the government ministry which looks after tenancy bonds and provides advice to landlords and tenants on tenancy issues. You should get a receipt from MBIE once the landlord lodges the bond with them.

When will I get my bond back?

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will look after the bond money until you leave the flat. They will only release the money if both you and the landlord agree it should be released. If you and the landlord can only agree to release part of the money, the agreed part will be refunded and the remainder will be held until you can resolve your dispute. MBIE also offers dispute resolution services for landlords and tenants who are unable to reach an agreement at a fee. You can call them free on 0800 TENANCY (83 62 62).

What happens if I damaged the house or things in the house that I’m renting?

Usually, when your tenancy ends, you should get your bond money refunded to you. One exception is if you’ve damaged the property while you were staying there. You don’t have to pay for reasonable wear and tear (e.g. if the carpet is looking more worn than when you arrived). But you do have to pay for any unusual damage (e.g. if you spilt red wine all over the carpet and they have to be replaced). If you’ve caused damage, your landlord can take money out of your bond to pay for repairs.

They can also take money from the bond to pay for cleaners if you didn’t clean the property properly before you left or had left a mess. Another reason you might not get your bond back is if you owe your landlord rent money.

How do I get my bond back?

Both you, all the other tenants, and the landlord must fill out the Bond Refund Form from the Tenancy website, and then you can send it back to Tenancy Services. The easiest way is to email it through to bond.refunds@tenancy.govt.nz.

Can the landlord ask for rent in advance?

Yes, this is quite common, but the most they can ask for is two weeks rent in advance. However, they’re also entitled to ask for up to four weeks rent for the bond money so you might have to find the equivalent of 6 weeks rent before you can move in. This is the most the landlord is allowed to ask for. If you cannot afford to pay so much in advance, you can try and get the landlord to accept a smaller bond or less rent in advance. It is a good idea to get this agreement in writing.

Can the landlord increase my rent?

A written tenancy agreement will usually set out how and when rent can be increased. If it doesn’t, the landlord must give you at least 60 days’ notice in writing and tell you what your new rent will be. They cannot increase the rent within 180 days of the last increase.

A landlord and tenant can also agree to an increase of the rent (outside of the usual 180-day period) if the landlord has:

  • improved the property, which increases its value and benefits the tenant; or
  • improved facilities or services provided to the tenant; or
  • changed the tenancy agreement to benefit the tenant.

I think my rent is too expensive, what can I do?

If your rent seems way higher than what your friends are paying for similar properties in a similar area, you should negotiate a fairer rent with your landlord. If you can’t agree, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have your rent reviewed. The tribunal can order the landlord to drop your rent to market prices if the rent is significantly higher than the average rent.

You can check out the Tenancy Services website to see how much the market value of your property should be.

If there’s more than one tenant, who is responsible for paying the rent? What happens if someone doesn’t pay?

If there’s more than one tenant on the lease, each of the tenants is individually and jointly responsible for all the rent. This means that if one tenant leaves, the tenants should contact the landlord and renegotiate the agreement, or find a replacement tenant if that is allowed, or you may have to pay for the tenant that has left. If you’re forced to pay rent for someone else (e.g. a flatmate), you may be able to take a claim against the person who didn’t pay in the Disputes Tribunal.

What happens if one of the flatmates leaves the flat?

If you’re the head tenant or one of the tenants on the lease with the landlord, then you’ll be responsible for finding a new replacement flatmate, and you may also be responsible for paying any rent that the flatmate hasn’t paid. That’s why you should make sure you keep the bond until all the expenses are paid by the leaving flatmate.

If the bond can’t cover the amount owed, you may be able to take a claim against the person who did not pay in the Disputes Tribunal.

What happens if I can’t pay my rent?

If you can’t pay your rent, then you’re breaking your tenancy agreement and breaching the law. As soon as your rent is one day overdue, the landlord can give you a notice stating that you have 14 days to remedy the situation – aka pay the overdue rent.

If you’re more than 21 days behind in rent or haven’t sorted anything out after getting a notice to remedy the breach, the landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to order you to pay the overdue rent and to end the tenancy.

They may also take unpaid rent out of your bond when the tenancy ends.

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