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Here to help . . . North Otago Citizens Advice Bureau chairman Peter Bond (left) and volunteer Paul Hebden provide information on the bureau’s services at the Oamaru Public Library on Wednesday. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Knowing your rights is ‘‘always a good place to start’’, North Otago Citizens Advice Bureau chairman Peter Bond says.

This week is Citizens Advice Bureau awareness week, and Mr Bond has been using it as an opportunity to promote the local bureau’s free services, and inform people of their renters’ rights.

A lot of renting problems occurred because people did not know their rights and responsibilities, Mr Bond said. Rent payments, bond refunds, disputes over damage and inspections and problems with mouldy, damp housing were among the most common inquiries the North Otago bureau received.

There were ‘‘a few key things’’ to remember when renting, he said.

‘‘One of the most important, is that it’s a legal requirement to have a written tenancy agreement. The agreement is your go›to if you have any disputes. It sets out the terms that you agreed to with your landlord.’’

Any changes to the agreement, such as adding or removing co› tenants, should be recorded, and if renters had any problems, the best thing to do was raise them with the landlord as soon as possible and in writing, Mr Bond said.

If an agreement could not be reached, or the landlord did not sort things out within a reasonable timeframe, there were options, such as sending the landlord a 14›day notice to remedy, and making an application to the Tenancy Tribunal.

Citizens Advice Bureau is a national organisation that provides free, confidential and independent information and advice. The North Otago bureau was established 33 years ago.

For more information on Citizens Advice Bureau, visit cab.org.nz, contact Mr Bond on (03) 434-9743 or visit the North Otago office in Community House at 100 Thames St.