26 Aug 2015

10 renting myths busted

9:14 am on 26 August 2015

Renting: it’s that time in your life when you start paying way too much to live in someone else’s house. It's glorious.

The latest figures show that more Kiwis are renting than ever before. About one third of all households are rentals compared with a quarter in 1991. 

And as house prices around the country continue to rise, and dreams of owning a home float further away, many of us are renting for longer. 

With so many of us handing over our cash to landlords, it's time to bust some common renting myths.

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Myth 1: I’m moving into a sweet new flat and I can’t wait for all the fancy new furnishings!

Sorry, but unless the flat is advertised as being furnished, you’ll have to provide your own fridge, freezer and washing machine, as well as furniture and TV.

There should at least be a phone line, unless it’s a rural property. Tenants will have to organise the phone line being connected if they are going to use a landline with a phone provider. You’ll also have to organise your own internet account being set up.

Myth 2: My house is going to be so warm during winter. 

Actually, it might not be. Right now there is no legal obligation for a landlord to insulate their property.

The good news is, the Government is planning to strengthen the Residential Tenancies Act to make it compulsory from 2019 for private rental accommodation to be insulated. It’s estimated around 180,000 properties will need to be retrofitted with insulation.

However, properties that are “physically impossible” to install insulation will be exempt from this requirement and it’s estimated there could be up to 100,000 properties in this category.

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Myth 3: We threw a raging party and now everything is broken. No problem though, the landlord will sort it out.

Nope, tenants are responsible for keeping the property in a reasonable condition. If you break something like a window, you are likely to be responsible for the cost of repairing or replacing it. 

Myth 4:  Oh, so that means I have to pay for the dishwasher that stopped working too?

Not necessarily. Tenants are not responsible for damage arising from burglaries, natural disasters or fair wear and tear. So if the dishwasher stops working due to its age and it’s not your fault, the landlord is likely to have to pay for it to be fixed.

It’s a really good idea for both you and your landlord to get contents insurance to cover your belongings and any damage you or your guests cause to the property.

The Tenancy Tribunal can help you sort out any dispute with your landlord about who is responsible for repairing damage.

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Myth 5: I paid my bond to the landlords. They'll just hold on to it until I move out.

Your bond should be lodged with Tenancy Services by the landlord within 23 days of receiving the money from you. You should get a receipt from the Landlord as proof you have paid them a bond.

You can take your landlord to the Tenancy Tribunal if they refuse to give your bond back at the end of your tenancy or if you feel they are keeping it unfairly for things which are “reasonable wear and tear” of the property.

Myth 6: I’m moving out and I really need my bond back...BBHMM!

There’s actually a bit of a process. When you are moving out of the property, you and your landlord should go through and check nothing is damaged or broken. If everything is okay, you should both sign the bond refund form, which will then be sent back to Tenancy Services. You should get your bond refunded within three days of the bond refund form being received.

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Myth 7: My flatmate suddenly moved out and there is no way I’m covering their rent.

Well, you’re legally obliged to if you’re a tenant. What’s a tenant you ask? If you have a tenancy agreement, verbal or written, with a landlord, then you’re a tenant. Tenants are responsible to the landlord for the whole of the rent, not just their own share.

Flatmates are a bit different. They’re people who are living in the property but are not part of the tenancy agreement. Flatmates are not responsible to the landlord for the rent and the state of the property. Instead they are responsible to the tenant for their share of the rent.

So if you are the tenant and a flatmate stops paying their rent, you are responsible for covering their share of the rent. If you are just a flatmate and not the tenant, you are not responsible if a flatmate stops covering their rent.

You should make sure you have a written agreement with any flatmates about rent and notice periods for moving out. You can’t get help from the Tenancy Tribunal for disputes between flatmates, but you may be able to claim unpaid rent back from a flatmate through the Disputes Tribunal, if you are a tenant.

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Myth 9: The landlords want to sell the house I’m living in! They can’t do that, right!?

Yip, they can. Under the Residential Tenancies Act, the landlord has to give you 90 days to move out of the property. If however, they or their family members are moving into the property they only have to give you 42 days notice to move out and it’s your responsibility to find somewhere else to live.

Myth 10: I’ve moved out, but the landlord says the flat is not up to scratch and they want to keep some of my bond. Can I respond to this with a roundhouse kick?

No, definitely not. Ideally the landlord should arrange a time with you to inspect the flat a couple of weeks before you move out so they can point out anything which is broken or damaged that they want you to repair before you leave.

At the final inspection you should have moved out all your belongings and cleaned the flat. If the landlord is concerned at this point that the property is not in a good condition, they are entitled to keep part of the bond to cover whatever needs to be fixed or cleaned. If it is something very minor, you could try and negotiate with the landlord about fixing it yourself.

Any dispute can be referred to Tenancy Services.

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This legal  information was provided by YouthLaw. It shouldn't be regarded as legal advice. If you are looking for help with legal issues, contact YouthLaw or a Community Law centre near you.