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When does a guest become an occupant?

10 June 2022

Tenants have a right to quiet enjoyment at their house. This includes having people over, family visiting and friends staying with them occasionally. However, some guests may overstay their welcome, which begs the question: where is the line? When does a guest become a permanent occupant?

What is the difference between a guest and an occupant?

Under the RTA 1986, a landlord has a right to set a maximum number of people ordinarily allowed to occupy their rental during a tenancy. This is something that should be written into the tenancy agreement.

Occupants are people who ordinarily live on the property. Guests are visitors who come over and sometimes stay with them.

Tenants are responsible for the damage they cause to the property, as well as damage caused by other occupants and guests.

A tenant is not required to notify a landlord whenever someone stays over or when a guest visits. But they should inform you if someone wants to permanently move in (if this changes the maximum number of occupants allowed to live at the property)

Warning Signs

  • The personal mail is delivered to the property's address
  • Start paying rent (particular paying a set amount regularly)
  • Share costs of the household (paying utility bills or regularly buying groceries)
  • Arrange to stay for a long time
  • Moved in their pet or furniture
  • Having no other permanent place to stay

Taking action

Unfortunately, the RTA does not specify the difference between a guest and an occupant. This makes it difficult to determine if your tenant breaches the agreement by exceeding the maximum number of occupants allowed.

If you're having an issue with your tenants who have relatives or friends staying at the property regularly, raise your concerns with your tenants first, explaining what is and is not allowed. You can also choose to change the agreement to allow tenants to have more occupants or add a new person to the lease. The alternative is to serve your tenants with a 14-day-notice to remedy for breaching the term of the tenancy agreement and, if not resolved, apply to the Tribunal for an order that the person moves out.

The information contained in this article is exclusively for promotional purposes. It does not in any way constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as the basis for any legal action or contractual dealings. The information is not and does not attempt to be, a comprehensive account of the relevant law in New Zealand. If you require legal advice, you should seek independent legal counsel. does not accept any liability that may arise from the use of this information.

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