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Where to Start

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Where to Start
Tenancy Agreements
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If you’re thinking of flatting for the first time, make sure you're prepared.

It's a good idea to check out our budgeting section first, to see if you can afford to move out. Working out what’s left from your income will help you decide what you can spend on rent.


Moving into an existing flat:

If you’re going flatting for the first time your best choice is to move into an existing flat. This means you get to share the experience of people who are already flatting, and it can make it cheaper as everything like couches, a fridge and kitchenware will already be in the flat. Plus, moving into someone else’s flat is an easy way to get to know some interesting new people.

There are still some big costs to start with. You’ll need to have money saved for a bond and rent for the first week or two (depending on whether you pay rent weekly or fortnightly.) Bond can be anything up to four weeks’ rent. So you need to have about six weeks’ rent saved. So, a $120 room will cost up to $720 to move into.

Where do I look?

Flatmate wanted ads are all over the place, on community notice boards, in newspapers and of course on the net. There are some great general websites like:

Trademe: Flatmates
NZ Flatmates
Student accommodation (Dunedin only)
If you look around, there are some websites and bulletin boards that deal with special interest groups. For example, if you’re Christian and want to live with other Christians you could try http://www.canz.co.nz/.


If you want to rent out a place – whether that’s on your own, with a partner or friends or other flatmates – there are some extra costs and responsibilities involved. First off, you’ll need up to four weeks’ rent for bond, and up to two weeks’ rent in advance. So if you’re renting a property for $250 a week, you’ll need anything up to $1500 up front, before moving in.


That first move will normally involve buying lots of houseware stuff if you don’t already have it – things like pots and pans, a couch, TV, toaster, cutlery, kitchenware (microwave, sometimes a fridge, plates, bowls, knives, chopping boards), cleaning products like Jif and dishwashing liquid, floor cleaner, a mop, buckets, a broom. The list really does go on. Lots of these sound like small costs, but add up quickly when you’re buying them all together. Ask around family and friends before you go out shopping, as often people will have old (but still usable) appliances that they will be more than happy to get rid of!


Another consideration is that if you’ve signed the lease to a property and have people sub-letting (that is, you have flatmates who pay rent, but the place is in your name), then it’s your responsibility to make sure the rent gets paid every week. If people are moving out, you have to get replacement flatties, or foot the extra cost until you do. This can be stressful, especially on a tight budget.


Finding a rental

There are plenty of resources to help you find a flat, both online and through other media. You can start with your local paper, as well as going to real estate agents and asking for their rental lists.

Online you can look at: 
LJ Hooker
The Rent Shop (south AK only)
First national real estate
Barfoot & Thompson (AK only)
Finda Rental property
NZ Herald (AK only)
MacPherson Real Estate (Southland only)



Tenancy agreements

There are two main types of agreement: periodic leases and fixed-term leases.


Periodic Leases

The most popular option for flatters is the periodic lease. This means there is no term that you’ve agreed to stay for – and all going well you’ll be able to stay in the flat for as long as you want. It also means that the landlord can end your lease at any time, with a notice period – so be good tenants!

One of the main advantages here is that if you have a horrible clash with your landlord and just can’t deal with them, you can move. Also, if you have a terrible experience with a flatmate, or are flatting with your partner and then break up, this type of lease gives you the option to leave. Be sure to part on good terms with your landlord, as a) you want to get your bond back, b) you want to get a good reference for your next flat and c) there are always two sides, and they might just see things differently than you do.


Fixed-term leases

A fixed lease can work really well for some people. It gives you complete security for that fixed term, as long as you don’t violate any terms of your lease agreement. However, there are two main drawbacks to a fixed term. At the end of the period of the lease, you can be left without a home with no notice. Be sure that if you take a fixed lease, you are able to renew it with a reasonable period left to run on it. Also, if you have a horrible experience and want to leave the flat, you’re stuck until the end of the term of the lease, unless the landlord or property manager agrees to release you.


Landlord or property manager?

It may not bother you who manages the property, but there are some differences between dealing with a landlord and dealing with a property manager. A landlord most likely does something else for a living, while making some money from the rental on the side. So, they might be a bit harder to contact than a property manager, who does that role for a living. That’s not always the case, though.

Because there’s another salary to pay, dealing with a property manager can be more expensive than a landlord. If you’re looking at renting a property through a particular company, ask friends and family if they’ve had any dealings with that company, as the service from property managers can vary a lot.


Setting up utilities:

You’ll need to set up a bunch of accounts for power and phone. Before signing up to anything for your power, check powerswitch.org.nz to find the best deal for you. If you have no idea how much power you’ll use, pick the deal that looks the best for you, and then go back to powerswitch after a few months and make sure it’s right.

You’ll also need to look at setting up phone and internet accounts. Combining your internet and tolls will often save you $10 a month and internet companies like ihug and woosh are starting to offer landline services to replace the likes of telecom and telstraclear.


Things to look out for:

So, you’re looking at a place – it looks nice, there’s the right number of bedrooms, now what? There are a couple of extra things you should consider when deciding if a place is right for you.

1) Transport: Is it either close to a bus/train route, or convenient roads to get where you need to go? If you have a car, is there a car park or only on-street parking?

2)  What chattels come with the rental? Is there just an oven, or are there other things like a washing machine, fridge or any furniture that might save you money?
3) Do the bedrooms have built-in wardrobes, or will you have to make space for a standing one?
4) Which way does it face? Are there big trees or other buildings that will block the sun?
5) Does it have a problem with dampness? Check with the landlord, or ask the previous tenant if they are available. You can also look for any signs of water damage or mould.
6) Is there an outside area, and if so, what is expected for maintenance?



Flatting can be a real clash if flatmates have different ideas about how things like how tidy the flat needs to be or when things need to be done. There are a few considerations that might be helpful when choosing people to live with. Flatmates who like the quiet life are not going to appreciate flatters who have loud people over and may not appreciate waking up to different people on the couch every other day.



When choosing flatmates, or looking for a place to flat, discuss things like grocery shopping and cooking. Some flats will be quite communal, with everyone sharing a common shopping bill and taking nights to cook flat dinners. Other flats might go as far as having padlocks on cupboards or fridges. Either is okay if everyone feels comfortable with it, but a common source of flat stress is people thinking someone’s eaten their favourite snack or used their special mayonnaise. Having likeminded people will help out here.



Consider setting up a flat account, or using a service like www.flataccount.com that all flatmates pay money for rent and bills into. One idea is to set an amount that will cover all rent and bills for the month and set up automatic payments for this fixed amount every week. As long as everyone pays money as they should, everything should run smoothly. You can always just get everyone to pay money as the bills come in but this leaves more opportunities for people to not budget for bills and get caught out.

No matter how careful you are, it’s always possible that you’ll end up with someone who is way different than they let on when you met them. There are plenty of flatting horror stories out there. Just remember, there are also plenty of quiet success stories too.


Rights and Responsibilities

You must be given three months notice of any increase in your rent.


You have a right that any chattels that came with the flat will be in good working order i.e. your oven will work.


You’ve also got the right for the place to be in generally good order. But be aware that even if a landlord doesn’t fix something straight away, you don’t have the right to withhold rent.


It is your responsibility to pay the rent on time. There is nothing worse for a landlord than having to chase up tenants for rent.


You have to look after the flat. Exactly what that means will be laid out in the agreement, but it’s going to include things like keeping the place well ventilated to stop curtains and other things going mouldy, keeping the kitchen and floors clean, maybe gardening. Generally, you just need to make sure everything will end up the same as it was when you moved in, less a bit of normal wear and tear. It’ll come out of your bond if you don’t and it’ll affect your chances of getting another flat.



Some helpful links:

NZ Flatmates
Good general flatting tips, and some flat listings. Banking and insurance info is sponsored, so be sure to shop around before signing up to anything.

Department of Building and Housing (DBH)
A guide for renters – the official view…

Flatting – range of things from your rights, to flatting stories and food on a budget.