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Am I running a boarding house?

Thursday, January 24, 2019


This week's question comes from Sue (paraphrased): 

I am renting out a property that has six bedrooms. For the purpose of the Residential Tenancies Act, is it irrefutably a boarding house or can it be a normal residential rental?

Our response: 

To answer this question, we first look at the definitions of both boarding house and boarding house tenancy per the Residential Tenancies Act (the RTA):

Section 66B defines a boarding house as residential premises that '[contain] 1 or more boarding rooms along with facilities for communal use by the tenants of the boarding house; and occupied, or intended by the landlord to be occupied, by at least 6 tenants at a time. A boarding house tenancy 'means a residential tenancy in a boarding house that is intended to, or that does in fact, last for 28 days or more; and under which the tenant is granted exclusive rights to occupy particular sleeping quarters in the boarding house, and has the right to the shared use of the facilities of the boarding house.'

To us, the key components of a boarding house tenancy are thus: 

  1. That the property has at least one boarding room; 
  2. That the property capable of or intended (by the landlord) to be occupied by 6 or more tenants at a time;
  3. That all tenancies are intended to be longer than 28 days; and
  4. That all tenants have exclusive rights to occupy their own boarding room (or, put in a more straightforward manner, that tenants do not have the right to enter boarding rooms that are not their own). 
The prima facie presumption for a house with six or more bedrooms is that it is a boarding house offering boarding house tenancies. The rebuttal comes from a closer examination of the landlord's intent. For example, if the intention is the rent a big house out to a big family then surely that would put the property outside of the definition of a boarding house (as component #4 simply isn't there in this situation). Similarly, if you rent out a three-bedroom house to three couples (6 people) then that would likely result in three boarding house tenancies (satisfying all four components).

Your intention in these situations is demonstrated through the marketing of the rental. Take the three-bedroom example from above, if the property is advertised as three bedrooms that are suitable for couples and singles then that is saying to a bystander that the property is intended to be housing 6 or more tenants at a time resulting in the conclusion that it is to be rented out as a boarding house. If, however, it is advertised having three single rooms that would accommodate a maximum of three people then that would make the house a standard rental. 

Tenancy Services offers an excellent summary of boarding houses on its website for those who are interested in learning more about boarding houses. We also encourage landlords to use the 0800 TENANCY hotline to have specific boarding house questions answered. 

Do you have any tenancy related questions? Write to us at admin@apia.org.nz or hit us up on our social channels here and here


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