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What is a tenancy agreement?

First things first: What exactly is a tenancy agreement? In short, it's what you, the tenant, signs with the landlord to record important bits of information and create a legally binding agreement. Things that will be outlined include the address of the place you’re renting, how much the rent will be, and so on, hopefully stopping any confusion or arguments down the line.

One thing to make sure you're aware of is whether the agreement is for a fixed-term or periodic tenancy. A periodic tenancy has no end date, only finishing whenever the tenant or landlord gives written notice to do so. A fixed-term tenancy, however, lasts for a set amount of time, such as a year. It can't be ended early unless both parties agree, and you should make sure it's the right decision before you sign. 

While you can technically move out of home at 16, it is often more difficult to get a landlord to agree to a tenancy agreement until you’re 18. If you are 16 or 17, a landlord will sometimes ask for a parent or guarantor to sign on your behalf.

This is because of complications around forming a legally binding agreement with someone under 18, but once you turn 18 the process becomes a lot easier.

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What should be included in my tenancy agreement?

Although some details of your tenancy agreement will depend on the place you’re renting, such as the cost of the rent, there are other general things that will always have to be included.

Some of the basics that must always be in the agreement include:

  • the address of the property
  • the amount of rent you’ll be paying and how often
  • how many people can live in the property
  • the date the agreement is signed and when the tenancy will start.

For an idea of what a tenancy agreement might look like, click on the Tenancy Services template below.

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Any other legal stuff I need to be aware of?

One thing worth knowing is that you should always follow tenancy law above your tenancy agreement. For example, if your agreement says that the landlord can kick you out whenever they feel like it, this goes against tenancy law and so won’t apply.

Finally, you should always keep a printed copy of your agreement and other important documents, so you have evidence in case anything gets deleted online.

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Key websites

  • Community Law - The Community Law website is the official home of the Community Law Centres across Aotearoa New Zealand, which aims to provide free legal help to people throughout the country.
  • YouthLaw Aotearoa - YouthLaw Aotearoa is a community law centre which provides free legal help to children and young people under 25. Their website contains useful information in relation to your rights.