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Finding a Flatmate in NZ

Sean Wang - Saturday, March 03, 2012

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Flat sharing is popular among both young and older homeowners who are after some extra money to help pay the mortgage, cover bills or make some extra disposable income.

With interest rates on the up and up and the increasing cost of living, some people are turning to finding a flatmate. The challenge, of course, is choosing a good flatmate that will best suit your lifestyle.

First of all, you need to decide what you want from a flatmate, apart from the obviously financial benefits. For example, if you are new to the area, you may see finding a flatmate as a way to creating a new social circle. In that case, you'll be looking for someone who shares similar interests and is open to going out on the odd night. On the other hand, you may already have a wide circle of friends in the area and just want someone to share expenses, in which case the age and interests of your flatmate are irrelevant.

Secondly, work out whether your lifestyles will be compatible. For example, if you have to be up early in the morning for work and don't like to go to bed after 10pm, you won't enjoy living with someone who works until late and gets home around midnight with half the local pub in tow...or vice versa!

Different people have differing standards of hygiene and one person's ‘clean' may be another's...well...‘filthy'. Be honest with yourself about how tidy you are and choose a flatmate who is similar. It's no fun for anyone if you hate mess and your flatmate is happy to leave dishes in the sink for a few days. On the other hand, if you choose a perfectionist for a flatmate and you are fairly laid back about the odd coffee cup in the sink, you may find that you're the one being nagged!

Choosing someone you are attracted to as a flatmate could also signal trouble. Invite them out for a drink instead. Then, if it doesn't work out, you won't be stuck living with them!

Set some clear house rules, regulations and expectations (whether written or unwritten) … and make sure you spell these out plainly to prospective flatmates. That way, if they don't like any of the rules on the list or are unsure they can stick to them all, it's probably better that they don't move in - for your, as well as their, sake.

Finally, here are 10 basic questions you can ask prospective flatmates to get the decision process going:

  1. What's your position on cleaning?
  2. What about washing up?
  3. How do you think the food shopping should be organised?
  4. What about cooking?
  5. Do you like pets (if applicable)?
  6. How long do you tend to spend in the bathroom in the morning (if only one bathroom available)?
  7. How do you think the phone bill should be divided?
  8. Are you planning to have friends round regularly?
  9. What about girl/boyfriends? Will they be staying over?
  10. Describe yourself in three words.

These should really help to get the ball rolling. Good luck and happy flatmate hunting!

NZ Rental Checklist

Sean Wang - Friday, March 02, 2012

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Moving home can seem like a mammoth undertaking, but if you follow this step-by-step checklist, you may find it a whole lot easier...

Before the move...

  1. Look for and book a moving company. Or, if moving yourself, shop for and book a rental truck.
  2. Prepare an inventory of everything you will be taking with you.
  3. Have a big clean up and throw out. Organise a garage sale, give away to friends, sell your items online or donate to charity.
  4. If relocating long distance, give notice at your job and/or schools.
  5. Also, if moving long distance, book travel arrangements.
  6. Confirm new school and childcare places if they have been pre-arranged. If not, explore the options and apply for places.
  7. Talk your children about the move.
  8. Compile the contact details of friends and colleagues.
  9. Let the relevant people and organisations know you are moving.
  10. Investigate local health facilities and sporting and social clubs in your new area.
  11. Organise a farewell party (or delegate it to family or a good friend!).
  12. Give notice to your landlord or agent.
  13. Organise boxes and packing materials.
  14. Start using all food items in the freezer.
  15. If possible, visit your new home and start getting familiar with the local area.
  16. Check your insurance to make sure your goods will be covered during the move.
  17. Get packing! Have a plan and do one room at a time, leaving just the essentials out until the last week.
  18. Check on how best to move pets and plants.
  19. Keep important documents, receipts, bank statements and final bills in one place.
  20. Organise new homes for plants that won’t be going with you.
  21. Arrange utility disconnections and reconnections.
  22. Organise to have your mail redirected with New Zealand Post.
  23. Arrange to have the carpets professionally cleaned just before you move out.
  24. If necessary, organise a babysitter for the day of the move.
  25. Clean and defrost the fridge and freezer.
  26. Back up your computer files before your equipment is packed away.
  27. Prepare the stereo, DVD player and white goods for packing.
  28. Collect dry cleaning and return videos, library books and any borrowed items.
  29. Cancel any deliveries (e.g. of newspapers, milk and groceries) – and organise them to start up at your new home.
  30. Arrange an inspection with the landlord or agent so that your bond can be released.
  31. Collect the keys for your new home.

On the big day itself...

  1. If moving yourself, collect the rental truck on time.
  2. If using a moving company, make sure the driver has the correct details of your mobile number and new address.
  3. Dispose of food, empty bins and leave the place neat and tidy.
  4. Check that all items included in your Tenancy Agreement are intact.
  5. Check that nothing belonging to you has been left behind.
  6. Make sure you have valuables, essential items, food (e.g. sandwiches and snacks) and drinks with you.
  7. Read meters so that you won’t be overcharged on any utility bills.
  8. Leave a note with your contact details for the new tenants.
  9. Make sure that the property is secure and that the lights, hot water system, gas meter and electricity switchboard are turned off.
  10. Leave the keys with the appropriate person or agency.

At your new home...

  1. Double-check that everything in the property is in order and meets the terms of your new Tenancy Agreement if renting, or purchase contract if you have bought your new home.
  2. Check that the electricity, gas, hot water and telephone connections have been switched on.
  3. As you begin the unpacking process, check for damage or missing items.
  4. Introduce yourself to the neighbours and get acquainted with the new neighbourhood.
  5. And finally, but certainly not least... start adding personal touches and organise a housewarming so that your new home really feels like yours!

A guide to NZ landlord and tenant responsibilities

Sean Wang - Thursday, March 01, 2012

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Before you enter into a Tenancy Agreement, irrespective of whether you’re the one renting out a property, or the one moving in, it’s important that you have a basic understanding of your responsibilities as a landlord or tenant.

From a legal perspective, landlords have a number of responsibilities and obligations. These include:

  • Signing a Tenancy Agreement with their tenant and giving the tenant a copy before the tenancy starts.
  • Sending any bond money paid by the tenant to the Tenancy Services Centre, within 23 working days of receiving it.
  • Making sure the property is clean and in a fit and habitable condition at the beginning of the tenancy.
  • Maintaining the property in a reasonable state of repair during the tenancy.
  • Doing any necessary repairs and giving the tenant 24 hours' written notice of entry to repair.
  • Paying the tenant back for any urgent repair work the tenant had to have done (as long as the tenant made reasonable attempts to notify the landlord before having the work done).
  • Paying all outgoings (i.e. rates, insurance premiums for insuring the premises, land tax, etc).
  • Making sure the locks and fastenings are adequate.
  • Giving the tenant rent receipts, if rent is paid in cash or by open cheque.
  • Giving the tenant a written statement saying what period rent paid relates to, if asked.
  • Giving the tenant at least 60 days’ written notice of a rent increase.
  • Giving the tenant 48 hours' written notice of an inspection.
  • Taking reasonable steps to ensure that tenants aren't disturbed by the landlord's other tenants.
  • Telling the tenant in writing if they intend selling the property.
  • Resolving disputes with tenants quickly and fairly.

Tenants, on the other hand, have their responsibilities and obligations also, such as:

  • Paying the rent on time.
  • Paying all charges for electricity, gas (supplied to the property), metered water (if provided for in the Tenancy Agreement) and telephone.
  • Keeping the property reasonably clean and tidy.
  • Telling the landlord as soon as possible of any damage or repairs needed.
  • Repairing or paying for repair of any damage caused intentionally or carelessly by the tenant or the tenant's guests.
  • Making sure that any limit set (in the Tenancy Agreement) on the number of people allowed to stay in the property at any one time is adhered to (does not apply to short term stays by relatives or friends).
  • Making sure the property is used mainly for residential purposes.
  • Allowing the landlord reasonable access to show prospective tenants, buyers or valuers through the property.
  • Leaving at the end of the tenancy, removing all goods and rubbish, leaving the property reasonably clean and tidy, returning all keys, pass cards or other such devices, and leaving all other chattels provided by the landlord at the property.

Whether you’re the landlord or tenant of a residential rental property, it’s important that you are also aware of the Tenancy Tribunal which is a court, part of the Ministry of Justice, that has been set up to deal with unresolved problems between landlords and tenants.

Understanding the NZ Tenancy Tribunal

Sean Wang - Thursday, March 01, 2012

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Whether you're the landlord or tenant of a residential rental property, you'll find this article on the Tenancy Tribunal useful, should you ever find yourself in a dispute arising out of your Tenancy Agreement. That's because the Tenancy Tribunal is a court, part of the Ministry of Justice, which has been set up to deal with unresolved problems between landlords and tenants.

The person who makes a decision on a case is called an adjudicator and his or her decision is binding on all parties. Parties normally represent themselves and it is unusual for parties to be represented by lawyers.

A tenancy adjudicator listens to what each person has to say, hears any witnesses and evidence that either side wants considered, and then makes a decision, guided by the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986.

Under the Act, all tenancies entered into after 1 December 1996 must have a written agreement setting out the particular terms that have been agreed to. This agreement should be signed, with a copy being retained by each party. The Tribunal will seek to enforce the terms of the agreement and will seek guidance from the agreement when making a decision. However, if a provision agreed to is inconsistent with the Act or any other legislation, it will not be enforced.

A Tenancy Tribunal hearing is a public hearing and either party may take support people with them.

The adjudicator writes down his or her decision as a Tribunal Order. The landlord and the tenant are each given a copy. The adjudicator's decision carries the same weight as a court order and thus both parties will be required to comply with it.

In most cases, if the decision is simple and straightforward, the parties can get a decision immediately after the hearing. Otherwise, the decision has to be written up by the adjudicator and posted out at a later date.

What kinds of disputes are dealt with by the Tenancy Tribunal?
The Tenancy Tribunal deals with all disputes arising out of residential Tenancy Agreements. This includes disputes about rent and bond.

What types of orders can the Tribunal make?
The Residential Tenancies Act specifies a variety of orders that the Tribunal may make, including:

  • a declaration as to the status of the premises or of any Tenancy Agreement or purported agreement, or as to the rights or obligations of the parties.
  • an order that one party yield possession of the premises to the other.
  • an order that one party deliver any specific chattels to the other.
  • an order that one party pay money to the other.
  • a work order.
  • an order varying the Tenancy Agreement or setting it aside, wholly or in part.
  • any other order that the High Court or District Court could make under contract law.
  • an order dismissing the application.

How do you apply to the Tenancy Tribunal?
You can apply to the Tribunal by contacting your local Tenancy Services office and completing an Application for Order of Tribunal. You can obtain a copy of this form from any office of Tenancy Services, which is part of the Department of Building and Housing. For contact details, see http://www.dbh.govt.nz/housing/tenancy, or alternatively you can ask for a form to be sent out to you by ringing one of the Tenancy Services offices or by ringing the Tenancy Services Centre freephone number 0800 737 666. There is an application fee of $20.

You will be sent a notice of the date, time and place for the hearing. Generally hearings are held within one or two weeks of the application being made, although they can be held at shorter notice in urgent cases.

What if I'm not satisfied with the Tenancy Tribunal's decision?
If you are not satisfied with the Tribunal's decision, you may apply to the Tribunal for a rehearing on the grounds that a substantial wrong or miscarriage of justice has or may have occurred or is likely to occur. You must lodge your application within five working days after the date of the decision (or within any time extension allowed by the Tribunal). You also have a right of appeal to the District Court. However, this right does not apply to interim orders, nor if the decision concerns an amount less than $1,000 or a work order valued at less than $1,000.