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Renting to students

Student tenancies are covered by all the same rules as other tenancies — but sometimes students have different expectations, especially around length of lease.

If you’re considering students as tenants, setting clear expectations upfront will pay off in the long run.

Fixed-term tenancy agreements are usually for six or 12 months. However, many students only want to live in the rental for the academic year (usually February to November). This can cause issues when students want to end the tenancy early to avoid paying rent over summer when they are not there.

All tenants are legally obliged to fulfil the full length of their fixed-term agreement. But it’s worth discussing where you stand on this topic before finalising the tenancy agreement. Could you set a shorter term or consider ending the fixed term, provided they find a suitable new tenant to replace them?

Ending a fixed term early (external link) – Tenancy Services

You must give a copy of the signed tenancy agreement to your tenant before they move in.

You must give a copy of the signed tenancy agreement to your tenant before they move in.

Discussing rights and responsibilities upfront sets clear expectations between both parties — you, the landlord, and your tenants. It also helps avoid issues down the track.

Be clear with your tenants about what's acceptable and what’s not. For example, if you are willing to let them hang pictures on the wall, state what type of fixtures you would like them to use.

Working smoke alarms are required by law at the start of all new tenancies, and must be located in the right places. If you buy new smoke alarms for your rental property, these must be photo-electronic long-life battery alarms.

Make sure your tenants know:

  • it’s their responsibility to change the batteries if they run out during their tenancy
  • it’s illegal to remove or tamper with the smoke alarms.

Landlord responsibilities — Compliance Matters

Starting a tenancy

Maintenance and cleanliness

For many student renters, it may be their first time living away from home. They might not be familiar with how to keep the home healthy, eg:

  • drying clothes outside where possible to minimise moisture in the property
  • opening windows to allow ventilation and avoid dampness and mould
  • opening curtains during the day to let sunlight in and closing them once the sun goes down to help keep warmth in
  • knowing what days to put rubbish and recycling out.

If there’s a lawn and/or garden, make it clear who will be responsible for mowing, weeding and watering.

At the start of the tenancy, provide advice and be clear about your expectations on:

  • what they need to do to keep the property in good condition
  • what you’ll take responsibility for.

Some things to consider:

  • Have you installed security latches on the windows so the property can be aired easily and securely?
  • Is there a covered outdoor area to dry clothes under during wet weather?
  • Have you installed ceiling and underfloor insulation — and allowed for appropriate heating — to ensure the property will be warm, dry and healthy during winter months?

Keep documents up to date

Expect changes in flatmates over the length of the tenancy, eg someone moves out and another person takes their room. Make sure you keep the tenancy agreement and bond records up to date with the names of the people currently living in the student flat. This will make the process smoother when it comes to refunding bond at the end of the tenancy.

Tenancy agreements

All new tenancies must have a written agreement — signed by both landlord and tenants — setting out important details, including:

  • full names and contact addresses
  • address of the rental property
  • date tenancy begins — and ends, if it’s for a fixed term
  • bond to be paid, if any
  • rent amount and frequency of payments
  • any chattels provided by the landlord, eg furniture or appliances
  • information about insulation in the ceilings, floors and/or walls.

Any conditions you add must not be in conflict with the Residential Tenancies Act.

The easiest way to make sure your agreement covers all the legal requirements — including an insulation statement — is to use this template:

Tenancy agreement template (external link) — Tenancy Services

You and your tenants must sign this agreement at the beginning of the tenancy. If there is a change in who lives there, you and your tenants must all agree to it. Then sign and date a record of who is leaving and who is coming in.

Change of tenant form (external link) – Tenancy Services

Bond records

Landlords can ask tenants to pay a bond as security when they first move into a property. The money is paid to Tenancy Services using a bond lodgement form, then is paid out when the tenancy ends.

Everyone contributing to the bond needs to sign the bond lodgement form.

If there are changes during the tenancy, then a change of tenant form needs to be signed. Usually the bond money is sorted out between tenants.

Everyone listed on the bond at the end of the tenancy needs to sign the bond refund form.

Bond (external link) – Tenancy Services

Insulation statement

All new tenancy agreements must now include an insulation statement. This sets out details about the property’s insulation, including what type and where it is. The tenancy agreement template on the Tenancy Services website includes an insulation statement template.

Does your rental home meet new insulation standards?

Does your rental home meet new insulation standards?

The deadline is July 2019, and summer is a great time to get ready for the new rules, either between tenancies or during routine maintenance.

Insulation rules (external link) — Tenancy Services

Make communication easy

Keep track of all your tenants’ email addresses and phone numbers. It’s a good idea to double-check these details during your regular inspections.

Keep the lines of communication open and be willing to consider tenants’ requests. Agree with your tenants the best way to keep in touch with each other. Texting and email are fine for general communication.

But any formal notices, eg a rent increase, must be in line with rules set out in tenancy law. This means you must either:

  1. Deliver the notice by hand, or
  2. Send it by post, email or fax, allowing for delivery times before the notice period officially starts.

The rules on notice periods and other factors vary for each type of formal notice, so check the Tenancy Services website.

Serving notices (external link) — Tenancy Services

You can’t give notice to end a fixed-term tenancy early.

You can’t give notice to end a fixed-term tenancy early.

But landlord and tenants can agree to do this. Remember to put the details in writing once you have all agreed.

Ending a fixed-term tenancy early (external link) — Tenancy Services

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