Know your flatting rights

Many of you will have had experiences with nasty slumlords or rental agents taking advantage of your rental rights, especially when you were young and new to the game.

This often starts at the get-go. The landlord slides dodgy clauses into tenancy contracts while students are completely at their mercy, ready to sign anything after competing in the flat-hunting hunger games.

Many dodgy clauses that seem ‘okay’ upon signing are actually outright illegal. Some of these dodgy clauses, include but are not limited to: banning tenants from ever taking the landlord to the Tenancy Tribunal, requiring that tenants get carpets professionally cleaned. Others are dubious and used for intimidation purposes despite being unlikely to hold up in the Tenancy Tribunal, such as requiring tenants to pay any costs incurred by the landlord during a Tribunal Hearing.

As tempting as it is to sign away as soon as you have found a flat, remember to read the contract thoroughly. This can help you avoid hell on Earth if the landlord or rental agent has put something nasty in it. They will often fill these dodgy contracts with garbage jargon to make them harder to read. So if anything sounds or smells fishy, get someone who knows their stuff to look over it.

3 Things to do before signing an agreement:

  1. Familiarise yourself with a standard Tenancy Agreement. These are provided by Tenancy Services and most landlords will use them. If anything in your contract looks different, ask about it!
  2. If you feel unsure about anything in the contract, and are not satisfied by what the landlord is telling you, get some advice! Your best options are our Advocacy Service or the Tenancies Services Hotline – 0800 836 262. (You don’t have to trust the legal advice of your second-year law flatmate.)
  3. Check with our Advocacy Service (advocate@vuwsa.org.nz), with your friends, or with Vic Deals that your prospective landlord is not a renowned slum lord who will make your life hell!

If you are locked into a contract and find yourself duped by a landlord, these people can help:

Because of the pressure to sign ASAP in order to not miss out on the flat, it can be even more useful to learn-up before getting the contract. The Tenancy Services website has pretty much everything you need to know.

We are currently working on a new ‘Know Your Rights’ pamphlet which will have all the most useful info about your rights as renters, so if you've had any bad experiences that we could help others avoid, email them to me.

Mā te wā!

Rory Lenihan-Ikin