Are Kiwi renters required to make beds under responsibility to keep property 'reasonably clean and tidy'?

This article was first published in April 2021.

Renters United has slammed a property manager who reportedly told a Kiwi tenant to make their bed and put their washing away as it was breaching their obligation to keep the property "reasonably clean and tidy".

One social media user posted on the New Zealand Reddit thread over the long weekend to ask for advice after they were advised about issues from the person in charge of their rental.

"We've had an email from the property manager advising that the house wasn't appropriately tidy when they did a property inspection (today?) and I'm hoping to hear other people's experiences or knowledge about what is "reasonably clean and tidy" (as stated on the Tenancy Services site)?" they said.

"The issues they raised were that our bed wasn't made, the dishes weren't done (morning dishes) and that our clothes on the clothes horse (put there last night to dry) weren't put away."

The renter admitted one issue - weeds in the driveway - was "legitimate" and they were happy to fix it but wanted to know if the manager could ask them to fix the other issues.

Many of the commenters said they thought it wasn't the manager's right to raise the issues as it was personal belongings, not related to the property.

Renters United spokesperson Ashok Jacob agreed, saying he thought the issues were "absolutely ridiculous".

"As long as the tenants aren't actually causing damage to the property, it's not the landlord/PMs business. Investors and property managers need to respect the fact that while it may be their name on the title to the property, by renting it out it becomes somebody else's home, and they have no right to interfere in their tenant's lives. Because of the dire lack of tenants protections in this country, the power imbalance between them and landlords is semi-feudal, and the tight market at the moment is only making things worse."

Waikato University Law lecturer Dr Leo Liao said there isn't an "absolute standard" to measure a property as "reasonably clean and tidy".

"I don't think normally in a tenancy agreement… there won't be things like you must put your things in the laundry before 9am or something. I don't think so."

But he said several factors are important from a legal standpoint of the definition, including how new the rental is.

"It depends on the overall condition of the property, whether it is old, whether it is new, in very good condition. According to the age and overall condition of the property the understanding…[if it is newer,] the standard is expected to be higher," he said.

Another factor is whether the property manager gave notice of their visit, or if it occurred during an unscheduled maintenance visit it may be less valid.

He said not many cases are taken to court on the matter.