Flatting in New Zealand is like the TV show Friends, except housemates are uglier and you are 9000 miles away from New York… Anyway, sharing a house or a flat is the best way to save money on accommodation, as the average cost is between NZ$130 and NZ$220 per week for a room. Flatting is also one of the best ways to make good friends in New Zealand, because you will be living with people who are sticking around. But choosing a flat should not a quick and careless decision. Follow our tips in this guide to find a flat in New Zealand to help pick the right place for you!
Because we understand that many of the terms used for renting a room are not taught in most English 101 classes, we have listed vocabulary you need to familiarise yourself with.
Flatting – Living in a communal house or apartment, while sharing the costs of rent and bills.
Rent – The amount of money you pay your landlord for staying in the flat.
Landlord – The person who owns and operates the flat that you are renting. He will collect your rent.
Tenancy and lease – The contract between you and your landlord stating the terms and length of your stay in the flat.
Bond – A security deposit, which is usually 2-3 weeks’ rent. You give this to your landlord to secure your room. You will get this back at the end of your stay if you are respected the terms of your contract (see bottom of this article).
Notice – The period of time that you have to finish your contract with your landlord. For example, you have to tell your landlord 3 weeks before you want to leave the flat, so he can find a replacement.
Flat or Hostel?
If you are staying only a few weeks somewhere for a quick job, don’t get yourself into the trouble of finding, moving and living in a flat. In this situation, you should stick to hostels.
For a longer stay, weigh your options. On one hand, you have the flexibility of a long-term hostel stay with heaps of interesting people passing through to meet. On the other hand, there is the comfort of your own flat with a smaller group of people who will be sticking around.
It is always a good idea to get a feel for the place you are thinking of staying in before making commitments. With most leases you’ll need to stay in the flat for three months.
We recommend sticking to hostels until you find yourself a job, then move into a flat close to work to save on the expense of commuting. You also might meet a coworker who knows someone looking for a flatmate, which will save you a lot of hassle.
What to check when looking for a flat
About to sign the contract to move in? Not so fast! Make sure to ask about the following:
Cost of the rent, power bill, and bond?
What is the move-in date?
Number of people allowed in the place?
Where are the closest bus stops?
Is it fully furnished?
For the smokers out there, where can you or can you not smoke?
You will also want to get a bit of information about your landlord, such as contact details, dates of the property inspections, how to go about maintenance, and what is the waste policy in the building?
Most importantly, visit the place!
Check that everything works, such as appliances (oven, fridge, washing machine, etc.), plumbing (taps, toilets, shower, etc.), lighting, and check that all the windows close properly in every room.
When you first move into the flat, make sure to write down any damage and marks to on the walls, floors or ceilings. Check if there is any damage to the furniture because yes, you will want a fully furnished place! Don’t settle for any less, as no backpacker in their right mind wants to start buying furniture.
Use websites like Trade Me, NZ Flatmates, Easy Roommate and Flat Finder or other resources to find a flat to find the perfect match for you and potential flatmates. It is very important to get a good feeling from your flatmates, considering you will live together for a while. Avoid online listings with an real estate agency logo on it instead of pictures. Find out why below.
Should you want to play it old school, as New Zealand does old school very well, you can find a few listings in local newspapers. Google what a newspaper looks like and where to buy them, if you can’t remember.
Don’t rely on other travellers in your hostel to rent a whole flat to yourselves. The risk is that they may change their minds, leaving you behind with a huge apartment to fill and bills coming up real fast. It’s always better to find a room to rent so you are only responsible for yourself.
Avoid real estate agents! They’re greedy by nature, therefore more expensive than an independent landlord. You usually end up paying a whole lot of money for little service.
Fast facts about the bond
The bond is often a stressful subject when finding a flat. It is a big chunk of money, so here is what you need to know about it:
No more than 4 weeks can be asked as a bond. It is usually 3 weeks.
You will need to fill up a bond lodgement form with your landlord.
Once paid, your bond should be lodged to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) – not kept by your landlord.
After about 2 weeks, you should receive a letter from the MBIE saying that your bond has been lodged.
It should be returned to you on your moving out day, if you have respected your contract and not damaged the place.
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