A couple who were going on holiday asked their friend to house-sit for them while they were away.  They had heard horror stories about house-sitters trashing properties and taking the owners’ valuables.  They contacted their legal advisor to find out whether there was anything they could do to protect themselves.  It was recommended that the couple enter into a House-Sitting Agreement with their friend before the house-sitting arrangement started. 

What is a House Sitting Agreement?

A House-Sitting Agreement allows a house-sitter to live temporarily in a property for a certain period of time while the owners of the property are away or not occupying the property themselves.  It can set out the behaviour that is expected of the house-sitter, and also set out anything that is prohibited. 

A house-sitting arrangement is not normally covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, which means that the parties are not protected as they would be if there was a formal tenancy in place. 

  • A House-Sitting Agreement may require the house-sitter to:
  • keep the property clean and tidy;
  • notify the owners as soon as possible of any damage to the property;
  • keep the property secure;
  • remove all of their personal belongings and rubbish at the end of the house sitting term;
  • pay for particular services and/or a weekly house-sitting fee (or the owner may pay the house-sitter for looking after their property).

A House-Sitting Agreement may also stipulate that there is no rental or lease arrangement between the parties.

In addition, a House-Sitting Agreement could require the house-sitter not to:

  • remove any furniture or furnishings from the property;
  • erect/change any temporary and/or permanent fixtures, fittings or furnishings without the owners’ written consent;
  • use the property or allow the property to be used for any illegal purposes;
  • interfere with, or allow others to interfere with, the reasonable privacy and enjoyment of any neighbours;
  • bring any pets or other animals onto the property.

You should also check your insurance policy to see whether you need to notify your insurer of the change in situation at your house, to make sure you have adequate insurance cover in place.  If you are unsure, we strongly recommend that you err on the side of caution and let your insurance provider know of the change in circumstance. 

Whether you are a property owner or a house-sitter, having a House-Sitting Agreement is a great way to protect yourself from anything that goes wrong with the temporary arrangement. As the owner, having a formal agreement in place will help you feel secure, knowing that your home is being well looked after. 

Lindsey Mills
Senior Legal Executive
Wellington