Harcourts Markets Illegal Boarding House as a Studio Room

Harcourts Markets Illegal Boarding House as a Studio Room

Students = 1, Harcourts = 0

If you are living in a flat with at least five other people, you share common areas, and you are all on individual tenancy agreements: you are possibly living in an illegal boarding house.

Bri was one of these students. Just two weeks ago she had to move out of her flat due to accessibility issues. When she told her property manager this, they agreed that she could break her tenancy early so long as she kept paying rent until a replacement tenant was found, and paid $300 in marketing fees. Bri had gone to Sage at OUSA Student Support, who helped her discover that her so-called studio room was, in fact, a boarding house. Under boarding house law a tenant can leave with only 48 hours notice.

Bri contacted her property manager with this information. Her property manager refused to accept this, despite admitting in an email that this address “could classify as a boarding house tenancy”. She said, “however, a landlord and tenant can enter into a fixed term tenancy if it is a boarding house if it is longer than 28 days”. This is incorrect. According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, boarding houses cannot have fixed term contracts.

Richard Stringer of Harcourts did not respond to our request as to whether this was lawful.

Luckily, Bri stuck to her guns. She repeated specifically that she was allowed to leave under section 66(v) of the Residential Tenancies Act, and that if Harcourts disagreed they could take her to the Tenancy Tribunal. The very next day, Harcourts sent a follow-up email saying that the owner had benevolently agreed to let her out of her tenancy early.

Bri is definitely not the only student this year who will realise they are the tenant of an illegal boarding house. If you think you might be in one too, Critic suggests you wait until your last exam is done to reveal the ace in your sleeves, and get yourself three months rent-free on your parents’ couch.

If you need some help with that, get in touch with OUSA Student Support.

This article first appeared in Issue 11, 2019.
Posted 12:20am Friday 10th May 2019 by Sinead Gill.