There are four basic types of tenancy agreement.
- Fixed-term tenancies
- Periodic tenancies
- Boarding house tenancies
- Service tenancies.
These are for a specific length of time and automatically become periodic tenancies upon expiry of the fixed term. They cannot be ended by notice during the term. To prevent the fixed term tenancy becoming a periodic tenancy either party may give notice to the other that they wish to end the tenancy at the end of the fixed term. That notice needs to be given no more than 90 days before and no less than 21 days before the expiry date. A ﬁxed-term tenancy is good if you are sure that nothing will change.
These are ongoing tenancies of no fixed length that can be ended by giving notice. A periodic tenancy is good if you’re not sure of your plans.
These are related to a contract of service between the landlord as employer and the tenant as employee. A separate contract for the tenancy does not need to be drawn up in writing for there to be a service tenancy and rent may not have to be payable.
Boarding house tenancies:
These relate to a grant of exclusive rights of particular sleeping quarters and rights to shared use of facilities in a boarding house for a period of 28 days or more. A separate boarding house tenancy agreement should be entered and include a statement of any services provided by the landlord. The landlord must also give the tenant a copy of the house rules.
Boarding house tenancy agreements:
These must state a phone number the landlord can be contacted on at any reasonable time. If there is a manager other than the landlord, the manager’s contact details must also be included.
The boarding house tenancy agreement records the room number to which the tenancy relates, whether that boarding room is shared with other tenants and, if so, the maximum number occupying the room. It should also record any services the landlord is providing as part of the tenancy. The landlord also needs to give the tenant a copy of any house rules.
Everything should be written in the tenancy agreement
The type of contract agreed to between the landlord and the tenant should be clearly written on the tenancy agreement. If the tenancy is for a fixed term, the date that the tenancy ends or the period that it is to last for should be written in the tenancy agreement too.
All of the terms should be agreed to before the agreement is signed. Additional clauses may be added to a tenancy agreement as long as these are compliant with the Residential Tenancies Act and agreed by both parties. This means that the additional terms do not give effect to an unlawful purpose or ask a party to do something that they would not need to do under the Residential Tenancies Act.
Amendments or variations
Any amendments or variations to tenancy agreements after the tenancy has commenced must be made and agreed to in writing by all parties to the tenancy agreement.
Property inspection report
For all tenancies a property inspection report should be completed and attached to the tenancy agreement and should be signed by both the landlord and tenant when it is completed. The report should list all of the chattels provided by the landlord for the use of the tenant and any facilities that are excluded from the tenancy, and outline the condition of the property and its facilities. Any damage or defects should be noted on the inspection report. The tenant pays for the supply of water incurred during the tenancy so the water meter reading at the beginning of the tenancy should be noted on the tenancy agreement. Tenancy agreements should be in writing but can still be enforced if they are verbal.
What happens in a ﬁxed-term tenancy if something changes?
Sometimes an owner plans to go overseas for a year and instructs us that a ﬁxed-term tenancy be put in place. Several months later the owner has to come home early. If this happens, the tenancy agreement means the owner can’t move back into their home until the ﬁxed term ends.
Sometimes tenants get job transfers or need to move out for other reasons. If this happens, they may have to keep paying the rent until the tenancy ends or new tenants are found.
A ﬁxed-term tenancy can be ended if both the landlord and tenant agree. However, a landlord or tenant can ask the Tenancy Tribunal to end the tenancy early if there is an unexpected change in their circumstances or it could result in severe hardship if the tenancy continues. This must be more than the hardship that the other party would suffer if the tenancy ends. If the Tenancy Tribunal thinks it would be unfair to make the tenancy continue, it may agree to end the tenancy.
The Tribunal can also order the landlord or the tenant to pay compensation.