The tenancy law is neutral

August 09, 2005

Rents: Can landlord and tenant freely agree rents in Cook Island?

The rent can be freely agreed between the landlord and tenant.

What rights do landlords and tenants have in Cook Island, especially as to duration of contract, and eviction?

The landlord and tenant are free to negotiate a residential tenancy agreement as they see fit, beyond the (few) conditions imposed by statute. Residential Tenancy Law in the Cook Islands is neither pro-landlord nor pro-tenant. It is pro-bargaining, as the law imposes minimal restraints on the landlord and tenant, but rather gives primacy to the terms of the tenancy agreed upon by the respective parties.

The use of written tenancy agreements is common practice in the Cook Islands. Standard terms include period of tenancy, rent, landlord and tenant obligations and covenants, and notice required for termination.

If there is a tenancy agreement, it shall be deemed (in the absence of proof to the contrary) to be a tenancy terminable at the will of either of the parties, by one months notice in writing. A tenancy is not of indefinite duration unless agreed to by both parties. The payment of rent does not guarantee either the party an indefinite tenancy.

In every lease of land, the following covenants shall be implied:

  • The Lessee will pay the rent agreed upon.
  • The Lessee will keep the premises in good and tenantable repair, up to and at the termination of the lease.

In every lease of land the following powers of the Lessor are implied:

  • Entry upon the premises at all reasonable times to view the state of repair.
  • The power to obtain rent in arrears by a distress warrant in court.
  • The Lessor may re-enter the premises if the rent is in arrears for one month, or if the Lessee has failed to perform anything implied by legislation, or expressed in the tenancy agreement.

Deposits

Common practice is for a two to three week bond to be paid at the start of the tenancy. No maximum deposit is stipulated by law.

How effective is the Cook Islander legal system?

There is no Tenancy Tribunal or any other such landlord/tenant mediation forum in the Cook Islands, nor any complaints procedure. Tenancy agreements are enforced by the courts. The landlord has the right to make an application to the High Court for an order that the tenant vacate the premises for breach of the tenancy agreement. Justices of the Peace have jurisdiction over disputes involving less than $3,000.

The effectiveness of law

The court system is neither fast nor slow.

Legislation

The Property Law Act (1952) Sections 105 – 116 governs both leases and tenancies. There is a difference between a lease and a tenancy. In the Cook Islands a tenancy extends to the premises only (i.e. the landowner is only excluded from the building and can enter the land at will), whereas a lease extends to the land.

Brief History: Recent changes in Cook Islander landlord and tenant law

Tenancy law in the Cook Islands is very simple and underdeveloped, although most Landlords now opt for arrangements to be formalised in some form of written contract. The Cook Islands has recently enacted Unit Titles legislation so we are expecting an evolution, as multi-storey apartment complexes may be commonplace in the future (there are no apartment-type multi-level complexes yet in the Cook Islands).

 

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