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Accommodation - information for international students

This page provides detailed information for international students, in preparation for living in Dunedin.

Accommodation options

There are five main accommodation options available to students studying in Dunedin at University of Otago:

  1. Shared flatting
  2. Living in a ‘studio room’
  3. UniFlats
  4. Residential Colleges
  5. Homestays

UniFlats, Residential Colleges and homestays are University of Otago-managed accommodation options. Shared flatting and renting your own fully or partly self-contained studio are private renting options. The most common accommodation option for students in Dunedin is shared flatting. This, and other accommodation options are descibred below.

Dunedin rental properties are generally let for 52 weeks. Extra funds are required at the start of the year for refundable bonds on flat, power, internet and telephone (if you chose to have a landline). This average rent includes furnished and unfurnished flats.

The cost of living in a flat can vary, depending on its distance from campus, the number of people sharing and the size and quality of the rooms. Cheaper flats may be colder in winter due to lack of adequate heating, bad positioning to receive any winter sun during the day, poor quality drapes/curtains and minimal insulation.


Shared flatting/flatting

Several people (usually between 3 and 7) live in a house together sharing kitchen, bathroom(s), laundry and living areas, along with each having their own separate bedroom, with its own lock and key. Most flats with this set up will involve a joint lease, where everyone living in the house is on the same lease.

Studio room

Each person has their own room and bathroom and is on an individual fixed term lease. Some rooms may have some basic kitchen facilities, but often there is a shared kitchen used by all the studio room tenants in the house. Usually this style of accommodation includes the electricity and internet in the rental price. There may be a shared living room, and generally shared laundry facilities.


This is a shared flatting situation where a local host student lives with several international students. UniFlats are managed by the university, have an application process and is the recommended option for single semester international students (Study Abroad and Exchange students).

Residential Colleges

Most school-leaver, first year students will stay in a University Residential College. In 2019, the typical cost for a catered Residential College is NZ$15,390. This fee covers accommodation, electricity, internet, three meals a day, laundry, room cleaning once a week, social and sporting activities, and tutorials in the evening for undergraduate students. There is an application process which is managed by Otago's Accommodation Office. Postgraduate students are welcome to apply for Residential Colleges, with Abbey College being a dedicated postgraduate college.


Homestays are where a student stays with a local family in their home. Included in the cost are three meals a day, internet, electricity and your own bedroom. University of Otago Language Centre and Foundation Year manage homestays and provide further information here.

Get more information about University managed accommodation from Otago's Accommodation Office.

Under 18 years of age?

New Zealand's Pastoral Care of International Students Code of Practice requires that all students who will be under the age of 18 at the time of enrolment live in one of the following categories of accommodation: a homestay, an approved residential college, with a designated caregiver, or with your parents.

A designated caregiver must be a relative or a close family friend. Selection of this type of accommodation is subject to approval from the University of Otago and requires an indemnity document signed by your parents.

Accommodation that the University of Otago arranges for students under the age of 18 years is compliant with the Code of Practice.

While under the age of 18, students will be required to meet with an International Student Adviser quarterly to discuss accommodation, academic progress, general health and well-being, and any concerns and complaints they may have.


Types of leases

There are different types of tenancy agreements:

  • Periodic means that the tenancy continues until such time as either party wishes to end the tenancy (note that tenants must give 21 days notice and landlords must give 60 days notice).
  • Fixed-term sets out an agreed period of time that the landlord and tenant commit to. In Dunedin this is the most common type of lease and is usually a fixed term from 1 January to 31 December of any given year.
  • Individual means only you and the landlord/property agent have signed the lease and are solely responsible for its terms and conditions.
  • Joint leases means you are signed on the same lease with the other tenants living in the property and are all jointly responsible for the terms and conditions of the agreement.
  • A Boarding House is any property with six or more individually leased rooms, which share some communal facilities (usually a kitchen and living area). A Boarding House cannot have a fixed term tenancy. Some rooms advertised and rented on fixed term contracts as Studio Rooms legally fit the definition of a Boarding House.

Length of lease

Dunedin leases usually run for 12 months from 1 January to 31 December. If you arrive part-way through the year, you will still be able to find accommodation, but the lease will probably run until 31 December even if you are not here. If you are arriving for the start of semester one and you sign up for private accommodation before you arrive, you may be required to pay from 1 January. It is important to take this into consideration when calculating your costs.


Most students choose to flat in the area directly around the university campus. This area has a wide variety of rental options that vary in quality. The North Dunedin area directly around campus allows a short walk to all facilities of the university, and will mean no travel costs. North Dunedin is generally popular with most undergraduate students.

However, there are other areas which are a slightly longer walk, or bus ride away, in which you may be able to find slightly cheaper, and potentially better quality housing. The following areas/suburbs within 20 mins walk of campus and are generally popular with mature students and postgraduate students: City Rise, North East Valley, Leith Valley, Opoho, Dalmore, Liberton, and Pine Hill.

The following areas have public transport directly to or near campus, and are popular with mature students and/or those with children: Normanby, Pine Hill, North East Valley, Opoho, Ravensbourne, Port Chalmers, St Leonards, Concord, Balaclava, some areas in Mornington and Roslyn, High Street, Shiel Hill, Musselburgh Rise,
Dalmore, and Liberton.

Due to the compact nature of Dunedin, the majority of suburbs in Dunedin are within a 15 minute drive to campus.

Start up costs

For shared flatting/studio room

  • Bond – up to 4 weeks rent
  • Rent – 2 weeks in advance
  • Temporary accommodation whilst finding private rental
  • Furniture and/or kitchen ware depending on rental options. If you rent accommodation which is not furnished you will need to allow for buying the furniture you need, like a bed and desk.
  • Contents Insurance

What is provided in private rental accommodation?

The furniture provided in private rental accommodation varies, and you will need to check what is being provided for each property you are interested in.

There are options for what will be provided in private rentals:

  • Fully furnished rooms/houses: includes bedroom furniture - usually a bed, desk and storage for your clothing and personal belongings. It may include bedding; kitchenware, including all items needed for cooking, a fridge, a microwave and plates, bowls, cutlery etc; laundry facilities; communal living area furniture. You would not expect to have to buy anything yourself in this situation
  • Partly furnished rooms/houses: there are a variety of properties which fall into this category, and what they provide will vary so it is recommended you check what you will need to provide before you move in. The most important questions to ask are whether a bed, desk, cooking utensils and lounge furniture are included. You can expect a partly furnished place will provide laundry facilities, a fridge, and an oven/cooker.
  • Unfurnished rooms/houses: this option will mean you need to provide all of your own furniture. However, you can expect, even in an unfurnished house, that laundry facilities, a fridge, and an oven/cooker will be provided.


New Zealand housing does not usually have central heating of any sort, and very few properties have double glazing. There are improvements being made around insulation requirements with the law now requiring ceiling and underfloor insulation where possible to be installed by July 2019. Most houses are headted by electricity in New Zealand, and mostly commonly by a heat pump which is essentially a reverse cycle air-conditioning unit which is used to heat. Properties will advertise if they have one.

Accommodation tips

  • Look at a wide range of areas to find cheaper, better quality accommodation and to avoid living in a noisy street.
  • Before you sign up, get someone to look in person at the place, as photos can be deceiving. Also use Google street view to see what the house and the neighbouring houses look like from the street.
  • Find out when the house was built as many of the older house styles make heating very difficult, and the lack of insulation will make this even more problematic.
  • Leases must have Insulation Statements on them and rental properties are legally required to have ceiling and underfloor insulation from July 2019. If the insulating has not already been done, look for a different property.
  • Check the age and condition of the property, as there are many old, cold houses in Dunedin and particularly in student rental options. If they are well maintained, old houses are relatively easy to keep warm and dry in winter, but if they have not been maintained there will be issues with cold, dampness and potentially mould.
  • Keep a written record of everything – this includes documenting verbal agreements and/or promises made verbally by the landlord/property manager.
  • Legally if a dwelling has 6 or more rooms leased out individually, which share some facilities, such as a kitchen and/or living room, it is a boarding house and cannot have fixed term leases. For more information about this please check the Tenancy Services website.
  • It is advisable when looking for private accommodation to check how much sun the property will get in winter, as dampness and mould can be problematic in some private rental properties. Use the Suncurves tool to see how much sun a property will get at different times of the year, with the terrain taken into account.
  • When you first sign up for a property, you will need to pay an initial bond, of up to four weeks rent, plus the first amount of advance rent, which can be no more than two weeks. You should be given a receipt for this, and receive notification from Tenancy Services that your bond has been lodged by the landlord/property manager within 23 working days.
  • The landlord and tenant should make a joint inspection of the property and record any pre-existing damage - usually at the time of first moving into the property. Do your own inspection and documenting if this doesn’t happen. The best way to document the condition of a property when you move in is by doing a walk-through video of the whole property making sure to capture all areas of each room and the outside areas of the property, and making a written list of any damage, mould/dampness and items not working properly. This is important to ensure you are not charged for any damage which was already present when you moved in.
  • Visit the Tenancy Services website for full information regarding tenancy information. Also, the University’s Accommodation Office has information around your rights and responsibilities as tenants.
  • Try and negotiate start and end dates.
  • If electricity is included in the rent check if there is a cap on how much you can use, as you may go over this in winter.

Characteristics of a good flat

  • Warm - check out Cosy Homes. Consider whether the method of heating is cost-effective.
  • Sunshine - the sunny side of the street is best, morning or afternoon sun – this means North facing which is the opposite to the northern hemisphere (tip – look at the satellite dish on the roof as it will be pointing north. Check for any large trees that may block the sun
  • Insulated - landlords must tell you whether it is there, what type and in what condition
  • No evidence of dampness or mould
  • Soundproof - consider street and upstairs/downstairs noise
  • Proximity to neighbours
  • Cleanliness and safety
  • Must have working smoke alarms
  • Who takes care of the section?
  • Costs
  • Rent - does this fit with your agreed budget?
  • Is it fully or partly furnished?
  • How much bond is required and when does it need to be paid?
  • Landlord - you are welcome to request references from the landlord
  • Talk to the current tenants of the house

Most importantly take your time to select a flat, there are plenty to choose from in North Dunedin and surrounds. A cold and damp flat may lead to health issues which will impact on your academic pursuits at the University.

Where to look to find accommodation

  • For information around Residential Colleges
  • For information about the UniFlats
  • For private rental you can look in several places including:-
    • University of Otago Accommodation Office listing service
    • Trademe - a New Zealand trading site similar to eBay, where you can search for free. Property Management Agencies and private landlords use this site to list properties.
    • Facebook also has groups for advertising accommodation, if you search 'Dunedin flatmates wanted' you will see a variety of groups you can join to help you in your search.

Issues or complaints

Some people find their accommodation is not what they were expecting for a variety of reasons. If you aren't happy with the acommodation you have signed a contract for, consider the following options:

If you are living in University-managed accommodation you should approach the person in charge of your accommodation to see if your issues can be dealt with.

If your accommodation is with a private provider it is important you are clear on your rights to help you negotiate effectively with them. You rights as a tenant are protected by the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, and under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

If you have tried to resolve your issues with the direct people involved and have not been successful you can get support from: