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Private accommodation – additional information for international students

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

Leases

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 1 and you sign up for private accommodation before you arrive, you may be required to pay from January 1. It is important to take this into consideration when calculating your costs.

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Location

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.

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.

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Start-up costs

For shared flatting or a studio room:

  • Bond – up to 4 weeks rent
  • Rent – 2 weeks in advance
  • Temporary accommodation whilst finding private rental
  • Furniture and/or kitchenware 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
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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.

Heating

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.

Most houses are heated by electricity in New Zealand, and most commonly by a heat pump which is essentially a reverse cycle air-conditioning unit which is used to heat rooms. Properties will advertise if they have one.

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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. Check the Tenancy Services website for more information on this.
  • 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.
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Characteristics of a good flat

  • Warm - check out the Cosy Homes website. 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. Check for any large trees that may block the sun).
  • Condition of the flat – visit the Tenancy Services website for detailed information.
  • Household 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
  • If you can, you could speak 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.

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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 accommodation 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. Your 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: