14 February 2020

Dealing with a coronavirus situation? Make sure you are aware of your rights and responsibilities.

The Ministry of Health is closely monitoring reports of the coronavirus and following advice from the World Health Organization.

Landlords and tenants are both responsible for meeting their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act. The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act) applies to current tenancies and prospective tenancies. The Act can also apply even if a written tenancy agreement is not in place. This includes situations where the tenant has:

  • not yet moved into the rental property
  • paid a bond or rent in advance or both as required by the landlord
  • a verbal agreement with the landlord
  • the tenant is overseas and has verbal or written confirmation they have the rental but still need to sign the tenancy agreement when they arrive in New Zealand
  • a right to exercise an option to enter into a tenancy agreement, usually upon payment of one week’s rent as a deposit
  • been offered the tenancy or has entered into negotiations for the grant of a tenancy

Some accommodation arrangements are not covered by the Act, unless the parties agree for the Act to apply. For example, if you are planning to live in a rental property as a flatmate, but not as a named tenant.

If there are multiple people living at the property, and you’re concerned about the health of other residents, the Ministry of Health has published guidelines on living with people in self-isolation (external link) .

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
  • discriminate when deciding to continue, extend, renew, vary, or to end a tenancy.

If you do want to end the tenancy, you need to provide the right notice. 

  • Tenants need to give their landlords at least 21 days written notice to end a periodic tenancy.
  • Landlords generally need to give their tenants at least 90 days written notice to end a periodic tenancy (in some specific situations landlords can give 42 days’ notice).

Find out more about giving notice to end your tenancy

Tenants and landlords in fixed term tenancies can only end the tenancy early if both parties agree.

If a tenant wants to move out before the end of the fixed term, they may be able to sublet or assign the tenancy, with the landlord’s agreement.

If a landlord or tenant has an unexpected change in circumstances they can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for help. If the applicant will suffer from severe hardship if the tenancy continues, the Tribunal may decide to end the fixed-term early.

Find out more about ending a fixed term tenancy early

Different rules apply for ending a tenancy if you’re a tenant or landlord in a boarding house.

Find out the rules for boarding houses

A tenant who thinks they have been discriminated against can either:

It’s important to know that tenants can only apply to one of these organisations. Before you decide what to do, it’s a good idea to talk to both organisations to understand what your options are.

Landlords can contact both if they want to check their decisions are lawful.

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 (external link) if you think you have been discriminated against or would like to find out more information.

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