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Signing tenancy agreement with multiple tenants: What Landlords Should Know

When renting out a property, it's very common to have multiple occupants. We're often asked whether all potential occupants should become named tenants on the agreement, or should an agreement be signed with one "head tenant" only.

Tenants, flatmates and occupants explained.

Firstly, legally there is no such thing as a "head tenant". There are tenants, occupants and flatmates.

Tenants are people listed on the tenancy agreement who are liable for tenancy and the property. They are covered by Residential Tenancies Act 1986 and have tenancy rights and obligations.

Occupants are people who ordinarily live in the property during the term of a tenancy.

As a landlord, you are allowed to set a maximum number of occupants, and tenants would need to make sure they don't exceed the number listed on the agreement.

Flatmates are not responsible to the landlord for the rent and the state of the property. Instead, they are accountable to the tenants for their share of the rent. The RTA does not govern flatmates.

The Privacy Act 2020 states that a landlord doesn't need to know the identity of flatmates. Generally, if having a flatmate would not exceed the maximum number of occupants allowed, then the information of flatmates would not be considered irrelevant to the landlord.

Is it better to have more than one tenant on the agreement?

All tenants are jointly and severally liable for anything to do with the tenancy. This means that each tenant is fully responsible for the whole tenancy, not just a portion of it.

As a landlord, you have no power over borders, flatmates, and anyone not named on or signed the agreement. But you can chase each tenant for reparation if you have to go to the Tenancy Tribunal.

It is important to check the terms of your insurance policy, as you may be required to sign an agreement with everyone who is over 18 years old permanently occupying your rental property.

Can one person terminate the tenancy agreement?

Because tenants are jointly and severally liable, if one tenant wants to vacate the property and gives the appropriate notice to terminate the tenancy, the entire tenancy ends on the termination date.

The landlord may agree to release one tenant from the agreement and/or sign a new agreement with the remaining tenant. But this is not required.

Who is responsible if there is a dispute?

The landlord can pursue both or any of the tenants on the tenancy agreement for rent owed or damages to the property, not necessarily the individual who caused the issue.

This means that one person in the group can willfully cause damage or intentionally stop paying rent, but others are held responsible.

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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What the community has to say
  • JJ

    Yeah nah per tennant agreements is the way to go. No way I'm signing anything that makes me liable for some other monkeys drama.

  • GW
    Gavin & Vicki

    Just a note - I think the wording on paragraph "Privacy Act 2020" doesn't sound quite right? It contradicts itself? Or do I need another coffee this morning?

  • GW
    Gavin & Vicki

    Agree - always best to have all occupants signed up as tenants on the agreement if at all possible? Especially initially - even with couples. Makes everyone realise they can't just walk & leave someone else holding the can ! But if you have a single tenant sign on & allow 2 occupants on agreement (for example) not a lot you have to say about the flatmate they choose after the event?

  • JT

    Before "myrent" chasing each and every tenant up to sign bond release paper form was a lot harder, same goes with any issues, it used to always be very convenient to have a head tenant especially renting to students. Myrent has solved a lot of these issues as can broadcast to all tenants at once so I'm now firmly in the get them all to sign on camp.

  • JB

    Have all tenants on as a rule. Have had one house run for over 8 years with 4 occupants but prob a dozen people on lease when flatmates moved in or out. When an existing flatmate wants to move out remaining flatmates find preferred person, I run myRent credit & reference checks (& recharge to tenants) to protect both myself and tenants. Works well.
    Another time had both husband & wife on. Insisted both on lease (he wanted only him) Turns out he's a bit immature but she's good. They split & his idea was her & kids move out & him getting other mates in as flatmates. With both on lease I could say no to that & give her option of staying

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