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What law changes have been announced as a result of COVID-19?

The Minister of Finance announced on 23 March 2020 a freeze of rent increases and protections against tenancy terminations. This has been applied as law through the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Amendment Act.

More information about this announcement

Questions and answers on the law changes (Ministry of Housing and Urban Development)  

I/my tenants are having trouble paying rent, what are my options?

Due to loss of employment income, some tenants may experience issues paying their rent.

Tenants that can’t pay their rent should let their landlord know straight away. Be honest about the situation and see if you can agree on a payment plan. Landlords and tenants that reach an agreement can choose to have this formalised using the FastTrack resolution process.

If you are likely to continue having trouble, think about other options:

  • financial support from the Government’s Wage Subsidy and Leave Payment scheme is available to eligible employers and workers
  • get in touch with budgeting services, Work and Income, or other agencies to see what support is available.

For the next three months, landlords can’t apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to end the tenancy for rent arrears unless the tenant is at least 60 days behind in rent. The Tribunal must consider whether it would be fair in the circumstances to terminate the tenancy, taking into account whether the tenant made reasonable efforts to pay rent.

Tenants are still liable for rent and landlords can ask tenants to pay what is due. Landlords can also seek a monetary order from the Tribunal for rent arrears even though they can’t currently ask the Tribunal to terminate the tenancy if the rent is less than 60 days in arrears.  Landlords should try to reach an agreement with their tenants before taking this step.

More information on rent arrears and overdue rent

Information on the Government’s COVID-19 wage subsidy and leave payment scheme  

Information on ending a tenancy

Information on support available from Work and Income NZ  

I am a landlord, can I still do maintenance or inspect my rental property?

Landlords must not visit their tenants or carry out inspections during Alert Level 4. You can hire a tradesperson to carry out any urgent repairs that need to be fixed during the lockdown period.

Landlords may be able to carry out a virtual inspection, with agreement from their tenants.

Find out more about virtual inspections

I’m a tenant in self-isolation, who do I need to tell?

Tenants are under no obligation to tell their landlord if they are self-isolating or sick with COVID-19. While we are under Alert Level 4, landlords should not visit or enter the rental at all. If it is necessary to do urgent repairs at the property for essential services while the tenant is self-isolating, and a tradesperson needs to attend the property, we encourage tenants to advise the landlord or tradesperson that they are self-isolating.

Tenants should also make sure any other tenants or flatmates are aware of the situation and how it will work. Follow the guidelines on the central government COVID-19 website.  

I’m due to move into a new rental property, but because of COVID-19, I’m not sure whether I still can. What are my options?

Under the new laws, if you have already given notice to leave your current rental property, you can withdraw that notice. If your landlord gave you notice to end your tenancy and this comes into effect after Thursday 26 March, it is of no effect (providing you were living at the property on 26 March). You should consider staying in your current rental property if possible.

However, tenants still have their existing rights under the Residential Tenancies Act and may still be able to move into a new rental property.

Moves can occur in very limited circumstances and extreme care must be taken not to violate any Alert Level rules or Ministry of Health guidelines. For example, a New Zealander might be returning home from overseas, the landlord or property manager might be working from home and have access to keys at their home office. The tenant might pick the sanitised keys up in their own vehicle and go straight to the new premises.

Tenants cannot hire a moving service during this time, they must move without contact or assistance from other people.

This can only occur in very exceptional circumstances and when the tenant would otherwise have nowhere else to live. You must not use this time to look for a new rental property just because you have the time. You should only move if it is absolutely essential.

What should I do if I have already signed the lease on a new place but I can no longer move into it due to movement restrictions? Will I have to pay two sets of rent?

If you gave notice on your current tenancy and you now need to stay, you can withdraw your notice. If your landlord gave notice on your current place, that notice is no longer valid unless you both agree otherwise. This means that your current tenancy agreement is able to continue. You should stay in your current rental property if possible.

If your new tenancy was to be a periodic tenancy, and you don’t want to move into it after the lockdown has lifted, you can give 21 days’ written notice to end it. You may have to pay double rent during this time, but you should see if you can come to an arrangement with the landlord.

If your new tenancy was to be a fixed-term and you want to end it, you could try to come to an arrangement with the landlord to cancel it. We encourage landlords to be flexible during these difficult times.

If you can’t come to an agreement regarding how to end a fixed-term tenancy, you can apply to the Tribunal under the grounds of unforeseen hardship to reduce the term of the tenancy.

More information on ending a fixed term tenancy on the grounds of unforeseen hardship

I’m in a boarding house or share-house living arrangement – what does self-isolation mean for me?

Boarding house tenants and landlords need to follow the self-isolation guidelines  . If you live in a boarding house, you should pay extra attention to the information on using shared facilities on the Ministry of Health website  . Boarding house landlords should consider changing the house rules to include the self-isolation guidance. Boarding house tenants must comply with the house rules and this may help reinforce the self-isolation requirement. 

For all tenancies where a number of people are living at one address, if self-isolation is not possible tenants may have access to the temporary accommodation service set up by Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE).

MBIE is working with other government agencies to assist those affected in finding suitable temporary accommodation for self-isolation. After registering, you will be contacted by a temporary accommodation staff member who will assess your needs and work with you to help you find suitable temporary self-isolation accommodation.

To register your details, please call 0508 754 163.

I’m having difficulty with my landlord/tenant, what should I do?

Landlords and tenants should talk to each other, work together and take care of each other wherever possible. Try to come to an arrangement that suits everyone. We need to work together and help each other to fight COVID-19.

If you can’t reach an agreement you can apply for mediation through the Tenancy Tribunal. There may be some delays with applications to the Tenancy Tribunal and mediation services during this time. We apologise for any inconvenience this causes.

More information on how the Tenancy Tribunal is operating during COVID-19

Discrimination against prospective tenants or tenants is unlawful under tenancy law when it breaches the Human Rights Act. For example, it is unlawful to:

  • not grant a tenancy to a person for any of the prohibited grounds of discrimination, for example because of their race, nationality, or disability. Disability includes physical illness, or the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing illness. This includes COVID-19.
  • discriminate when deciding to continue, extend, renew, vary, or to end a tenancy.

More information on discrimination

If you are in an accommodation arrangement that is not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act you can contact the Human Rights Commission   if you think you have been discriminated against or would like to find out more information.