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Maintenance and Repairs: who's responsible?

30 October 2017

Photo: Handy Manny vs Bob the Builder by JD Hancock

Maintenance and repairs issues are best resolved through discussion and positive communication between landlords and tenants. It's important to understand your rights and responsibilities when it comes to fixing these issues.

Regular Maintenance

Keeping the premises in a reasonable state of repair

It is the landlord’s responsibility to provide and maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair. This means that most issues of maintenance before, during, and after the tenancy are generally the landlord’s responsibility.

What a ‘reasonable state of repair’ means depends on the nature of the rental property, including its age and character. For example, a reasonable state of repair for an older wooden home will be quite different to that for a new brick home.

Keeping the premises clean and tidy

The landlord must provide the premises at the beginning of the tenancy in a clean and tidy condition. This usually means that the landlord should clean the premises before a new tenant moves in.

During the course of the tenancy, the tenant is generally responsible for keeping the premises reasonably clean and tidy. Keeping the property clean and tidy is important to ensure that no lasting or permanent damage is done to the premises that you may be liable for as a tenant.

Tenant’s fixtures, fittings, alterations, or renovations to premises

The tenant must not affix anything to the property or make any alterations, renovations, or addition to the property unless the landlord has consented to this.

Consent can be in a term of the tenancy agreement, or by subsequent agreement by the tenant and landlord.

The tenants can remove any fixtures installed at the premises before they move out. If, however, removal would cause damage that cannot be repaired then the fixture must not be removed.

Locks and Security

The landlord must provide and maintain the premises in a reasonably secure condition. This means that the locks (and other security devices) at the premises must be reasonably secure.

Before any locks or other security devices are installed, removed, or altered, the landlord or tenant must get the consent of the other party.

Maintaining outside areas

The tenant is usually responsible for:

  • Keeping outside areas reasonably clean and tidy.
  • Mowing lawns and weeding gardens.
  • Window cleaning.
  • Leaving any outside areas clean and tidy at the end of the tenancy.

Pruning or removal of plants or trees should only be done with the landlord’s prior consent.

The landlord is usually responsible for:

  • Pruning and maintaining trees and plants.
  • Ensuring trees and other plants are safe, especially after storm damage or encroachment of power lines.
  • House-washing and gutter cleaning.
  • Arranging for maintenance to the outside of the house including painting or roof work.

If the landlord is happy to look after lawns, it's important to discuss this prior and include this in the tenancy agreement.

Phone, Internet, and TV services

If the landlord provides the property with digital TV, internet, or phone services, the landlord will be responsible for their maintenance and that they continue to function properly.

If the landlord or tenant want to install digital TV services, they must seek the consent of the other party first.

Cleaning the chimney

It is the landlord’s responsibility to clean the chimney. This will usually need to be done at least once a year. Tenants are responsible for cleaning away ashes from the hearth.

Replacing lightbulbs

Tenants and landlords should agree on who is responsible for replacing lightbulbs. If they are standard bulbs, then it is usually the tenant’s responsibility. If they are non-standard or very expensive, then the landlord should usually bear the cost of replacement.


Report damage as soon as possible

When the tenant becomes aware of damage to the property or the need for repairs, they should notify the landlord as soon as possible, regardless of the cause of the damage.

Fast notification prevents problems from getting worse. If a tenant does not notify the landlord as soon as possible, the landlord may be able to claim part of the cost of repairs from the tenant if the damage has worsened due to the delay in reporting.

Who is responsible for repairs?

As a general rule, the person who caused damage is responsible for fixing it.

However, the rules regarding responsibility are more complex than that.

The tenant will always be responsible for damage caused by:

  • Intentional actions by the tenant.
  • Intentional actions by invited guests of the tenant.

The tenant cannot be responsible when the damage was caused by:

  • burglaries
  • natural events (e.g. fire, flood, explosion, lightning, storm, earthquake or volcanic activity)
  • fair wear and tear

On 27 August 2019, new legislation took effect, which affects tenants’ liability for damage. If the damage was caused by carelessness of the tenant or their guests, they are liable for the cost of the damage up to four weeks’ rent or the landlord’s insurance excess (if applicable), whichever is lower.

Landlords can’t ask for or accept more than that limit.

Read more about responsibility for repairs here.

If the damage is neither careless nor intentional, the tenant is not liable.

Simple tips for solving repairs issues
- Discuss what needs to be done to fix the issue and when.
- Take steps to limit damage or loss before maintenance or repairs are done.
- Allow a reasonable amount of time for work to be completed.
- Get quotes and ensure costs are reasonable.

Urgent Repairs

When are repairs ‘urgent’?

Repairs are classified as ‘urgent’ when the damage or disrepair is likely to cause injury to people or property.

Example: a tree collapsing on a house during on a storm is likely to be classified as urgent repairs because it poses a risk to the occupants’ safety and the property.

The tenant can organise for urgent repairs to be conducted without the consent of the landlord if they have made reasonable attempts to contact the landlord but have received no response.

What are the landlord and tenant’s obligations for urgent repairs?

The tenant can request the landlord to pay for any costs associated with urgent repairs. This may mean paying for the maintenance directly or reimbursing the tenant.

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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