Renting a house in NZ

New Zealand Rental Properties

In the first few months of your life in New Zealand you will very likely be living in a rental house while you get settled in and decide where you want to live permanently.

Your first few weeks in New Zealand, particularly until your belongings arrive, can often be quite unsettled. Some families rent holiday accommodation, such as a motel unit, then move to unfurnished accommodation when their furniture arrives – though even this can be a bit of a juggling act, as you are never quite sure when the container ship will arrive!

Renting a property for a few months when you emigrate to New Zealand is a great idea, but many migrants from the UK are keen to buy a house immediately and get settled in. We can certainly understand the appeal – you only have to move once, and if you owned your home in the UK it can be hard to go back to renting. Sometimes it can be difficult to find a pleasant, warm rental property in New Zealand.

But on the plus-side, renting gives you a lot more time to take a good look around and be certain about what you want from both a house and the area you live in, rather than rushing in to a house purchase with the deadline of a truck full of furniture arriving and a rapidly mounting motel bill.

Furnished or Unfurnished?

Most rental properties in NZ are let unfurnished, with just an oven, curtains and carpets. There are some properties, often inner city apartments and town houses, that are available furnished or semi-furnished, but these will often be quite expensive – and there aren’t really many of them.

It is possible to rent furniture – short-term appliance rentals are relatively common, but furniture rentals are much less so and very expensive.

Finding Rental Houses in New Zealand

You can find rental accommodation in the classifieds in daily newspapers, and through real estate agents and rental agencies, and on websites such as Trademe Property. Real estate agents and rental agencies often charge the renter a fee, usually around one week’s rent plus GST. It may help to be able to show references (from former employers or former landlords), but is often not necessary.

As in the UK, you may find it a bit harder in New Zealand to find rental accommodation when you have pets. For more information  please see our article on bringing your pet with you to NZ.

Prices and Availability of Rental Houses in New Zealand

To check prices and availability in the area you’d like to settle in, see Trademe Property. The Tenancy Agency publishes a list of average market rents by area (right down to individual suburbs in cities) at Market Rent from Ministry of Housing.This also lists the size of the property and is updated every month.

You will probably be interested in an open or periodic rather than a fixed term tenancy – when you wish to move on you will only need to give the landlord 3 weeks notice, and they may agree to less. A landlord needs to give you at least 3 months notice if they need you to leave, unless they need the property for a family member or employee, or if they have sold the property, when they will still need to give 42 days notice.

Bonds,  Deposits and New Zealand Tenancy Law

It is normal for a landlord to ask for 2 – 4 weeks bond and 1 weeks rent in advance. The Bond is lodged with Tenancy Services, part of the Department of Building and Housing. Tenancy Services also runs an adjudication service for tenants and landlords. For details, seeMinistry of Housing Tenancy Services. It is worth reading their summary of the Residential Tenancies Act, which covers your obligations as a tenant and your landlord’s obligations NZ Tenancy Law.

Top Tips for Renting in NZ

WE ASKED OUR FAVOURITE CHRISTCHURCH RENTAL AGENT, CAROLINE REGISTER FROM HOLMWOOD PROPERTY MANAGEMENT, ABOUT HER TOP TIPS FOR BRITS RENTING A HOUSE IN NEW ZEALAND.

  • Be specific about what you want from a rental property; there are quite a few old, cold damp rental properties around – not the best start to your new life in New Zealand! We would advise that you try to get a newer property, or at least a redecorated one. You may pay a few extra dollars a week, but it is truly worth it!
  • When to start looking for a rental house: there is a lot of movement in rental properties early in the new year, but plenty of demand then too. Start looking about 5 weeks before you need your rental – this will give you plenty of time and most rentals through agencies won’t be listed too much earlier than this.
  • Heating: most rentals specify the heating method. You need good heating such as a heat pump, logburner or pellet fire in most parts of New Zealand, including Christchurch, so make sure you specify this when you talk to your agent. Other forms of heating are often expensive, messy and/or ineffective.
  • Pets: having a dog can restrict your options as a tenant, but many landlords are willing to negotiate over a cat or two.
  • Smoking: we have a no smoking policy inside all our rentals, which is becoming very common, always pays to be up front with your prospective landlord.
  • The Role of a Rental Agent: the role of a rental agent is to show prospective tenants through properties they wish to view. Each agent can only access properties that are listed through their agency, so they will not be able to show you through properties that have been listed by another agency or properties where the owner is managing the listing without an agency.
  • Fees and Deposits: when renting through an Agency a tenant usually pays: A letting fee of one weeks rent plus GST, if through an agency registered with REINZ, 3-4 weeks of bond, which is held with governmental agency Building & Housing New Zealand, and 1-2 weeks rent in advance.
  • The advantage of renting through an agency that is registered with REINZ: agencies that are registered with REINZ, the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand have committed to following rules, codes of ethics and codes of practice. Using a REINZ-registered agent ensures that you have access to the right advice as a tenant, as well as excellent local knowledge, help with negotiation and dispute resolution.
  • Flexibility of Rental Agreements: a fixed term rental is for a fixed period and cannot be terminated by giving notice, so it pays to be very definite about what term you are looking for, whether it is 6 months, 12 months or something else. If you move out early you may be responsible for paying the rent until a new tenant can be found. You may also be responsible for costs associated with finding the new tenant.With a periodic rental you can give 21 days written notice at any time, which gives you a lot more flexibility. The down-side of this is that the owner/agency can give you 42 days notice if the owner requires the property for their use or their family’s use, or 90 days notice in all other cases.
  • Sorting Out Problems: most landlords are very reasonable when it comes to working through issues. If required, mediation via Tenancy Services can assist in mediating between the two parties. If no decision can be reached the next step to sorting out issues is via the Tenancy Tribunal.
  • References, Paperwork and Credit Checks: as a new migrant, you will obviously not have a credit rating in New Zealand. Instead, a rental agent will probably need to look at the following supporting paperwork:
  1. Reference from your new employer in NZ (if possible – a letter of employment to show that you are employed will be fine otherwise)
  2. References from past employers
  3. A UK credit reference
  4. References from UK landlords or letting agencies (if you have been renting in the UK)
  5. Proof of ownership of property if you own (or owned) your home in the UK
  6. Copy of passport
  7. Proof of former address in UK, e.g. utilities invoice

To find out more, request a free copy of our Financial and Pension guides for New Zealand.