CAB Calls On Government To Protect Vulnerable Non-tenant Renters

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is calling on the Government to protect the rights of people who are renting, but not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).

“We’re deeply concerned about the number of problems we are seeing for people who are living in renting situations, but don’t have the legal protections of the RTA” says Dr Andrew Hubbard, Deputy Chief Executive of CABNZ.

CABs helped with more than 13,000 renting problems in the last year and say that the gaps in the RTA are leaving a growing number of people without protection. “We regularly see flatmates and other non-tenant renters stuck in very difficult situations with few legal protections, because they are not covered by tenancy law,” Dr Hubbard says.

Clients the CAB is concerned about include flatmates, private boarders, people living in the same house as their landlord, and those living in other situations like camping grounds. CAB says that as an increasing number of people are renting, in often precarious situations, the harm caused by these gaps in tenancy law are becoming more significant. The CAB has sent a letter to Housing Minister Hon Poto Williams this week urging the Government to take action to address this harm.

Flatmate disputes about rent, bond repayments, notice periods, relationship breakdowns, and disposal of flatmates’ possessions, are situations commonly seen by CABs around the country. Similarly, disputes in private boarding situations include disagreements about payments, bond refunds, relationship breakdowns, and a lack of clarity about ending the arrangement. Other enquiries relate to situations where people are living in campgrounds, campervans on leased land, short-term rentals, or renting from family members.

Dr Hubbard states that many of their clients with these sorts of issues are referred to CAB by Tenancy Services and the Police. He says that while the CAB is happy to assist, there is often little that can be done other than asking the other party to be reasonable, or taking the matter to the Disputes Tribunal.

“People in flatting and private boarding situations come to us wanting to know their ‘tenancy’ rights, when in reality they have very few. They largely rely on whatever agreement they have with the head tenant or home owner, and often there is no written agreement in place” Dr Hubbard says.

CAB is calling on the Government to address the gaps in tenancy law, and give all people who are renting appropriate legal protection and more certainty about their rights.


Examples of enquiries to CAB relating to non-tenant renters

  • The client had to move for work during raised COVID-19 levels and so had limited choice of where to live. He moved into a flat that was very dirty and paid bond to the head tenant. The paperwork was to follow but then the head tenant said he didn’t believe in paperwork. The client has found somewhere else to live but the head tenant is refusing to pay back the bond. The client wants to know what their rights are.
  • The client’s flatmate is behind on rent payments. They do not have a written agreement but the flatmate had been paying the agreed amount on time until recently. The flatmate has now started paying less rent or no rent. The client wonders what they can do.
  • The client is living with others, including the person who owns the home. There is no ‘tenancy agreement’ and the bond paid by the client and other flatmates was not lodged anywhere so the only records are the bank transactions. Now the homeowner has given the tenants/flatmates notice to leave, and is refusing to return the bond. The client wants to know what their rights are about the bond and notice period.
  • The client lives in a cabin on a property, alongside a number of other boarders in cabins, and pays $200 a week board. The client had a dispute with the landlord, and so has been evicted. They don’t have a written agreement and want to know if they have any rights. They also want help finding somewhere else to live.


Who is and isn’t covered by the Residential Tenancies Act

The Residential Tenancies Act covers residential renting arrangements between landlord and tenant.

It does not cover:

  • flatting situations (when an agreement to share housing is between a tenant and a flatmate)
  • if the renter and their landlord (or a member of the landlord’s family) share the rental home, so the renter and their landlord are effectively flatmates
  • private board, where the renter lives in a boarding house not covered by the Act (so the boarder and their landlord are effectively flatmates)
  • student accommodation
  • hospitals and rest-homes
  • short-term emergency housing, unless agreed that the occupier would stay for longer than 28 days
  • if you only rent the land, and put your own shelter on it (for example a caravan or tent)
  • in campground or motor camp, unless agreed with the operator that you would stay more than 50 days.

About the CAB

This year CAB Awareness Week runs from 14 – 20 March 2022. This is a chance to celebrate and promote what the CAB does in communities around Aotearoa and inform people of their renters’ rights and what they are entitled to as tenants and renters.

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is a nationwide, but locally based, community organisation that provides free, confidential, independent information and advice. The CAB helps people to know and understand their rights and responsibilities and to find the community services they need.

Visit our website for more information

For online resources for tenants and their advocates, visit

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