Find out about the temporary legislation around ending tenancies during COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Act came into force on 26 March 2020 and amends the Residential Tenancies Act during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The restrictions on ending a tenancy apply for an initial period of three months from 26 March to 25 June 2020 (this may be extended).
If a landlord gives a notice to terminate a tenancy other than for a permitted reason during this period, they may be liable for exemplary damages of up to $6,500.
A tenancy termination notice under the normal Residential Tenancies Act provisions can be given after the three-month period (after 25 June 2020, unless the legislation is extended). Normal notice periods from the day it is given will apply.
At this time, we encourage landlords and tenants to talk to each other, work together and take care of each other wherever possible. Try to come to an arrangement that suits everyone.
Landlords ending a tenancy
During this time, landlords will not be able to end tenancies, regardless of when the notice was provided, except for some very limited circumstances. Tenants that have previously received notices to end their tenancies (for reasons other than the ones listed below) can stay in their rental properties.
If the landlord wants to end a tenancy during this period, both parties must agree or other limited circumstances need to apply. These circumstances are where the tenant:
- substantially damages, or threatens to substantially damage the premises
- assaults or threatens to assault the landlord, their family, or the neighbours
- abandons the property
- engages in antisocial behaviour (harassment; or any intentional act, if the act reasonably causes significant alarm, distress, or nuisance)
- is 60 days behind in rent, which is increased from 21 days (and the Tribunal will need to take into account fairness and whether the tenant is making reasonable efforts to pay the rent).
The Tenancy Tribunal will act as a check to ensure these reasons are being used lawfully. Tenancies can also be ended on the death of a sole tenant, or where the property is uninhabitable.
Tenants ending a tenancy
Tenants can give notice to end their tenancy as normal. For a periodic tenancy, tenants must give at least 21 days’ notice. For a fixed-term tenancy, see our webpage for more information.
If you gave notice on your current tenancy and you now wish or 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, and that the landlord has to give a further termination notice either on one of the limited grounds permitted during the period of the emergency legislation, or once the freeze on termination ends. At the moment, the freeze on terminations will expire on 25 June 2020. However, under the temporary legislation, that can be extended by the government until 25 September 2020.
If you have two leases in tandem, if you haven’t already, you may wish to negotiate with one or both landlords around notice periods and rent payments. We encourage landlords to be flexible during these difficult times. If you can’t come to an agreement, you could apply to the Tenancy Tribunal under the grounds of unforeseen hardship to reduce the term of the tenancy.
Fixed terms that expire during the freeze on termination become periodic tenancies. This means you can stay in your rental property until you or the landlord/Tenancy Tribunal give notice to terminate the tenancy either on the limited grounds in the temporary legislation (during the freeze on termination) or under the usual provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act (after the end of the freeze on termination).
If you are served a termination notice under one of the termination grounds that apply under the temporary legislation, you should talk to Work and Income to find accommodation (external link) .
The Tenancy Tribunal can act as a check to ensure these reasons are used lawfully.
Tenancy Tribunal termination orders
Tenancy Tribunal termination orders are temporarily suspended if all of the following apply:
- The Tenancy Tribunal order was made before 26 March 2020
- It takes effect on or after 26 March 2020
- The order was not made for one of the following reasons:
- the death of a sole tenant
- non-payment of rent
- damage or assault
- because of a breach, the property is uninhabitable
- the property has been abandoned.
- The tenant was still residing at the premises on the commencement date.
In these situations, the order is suspended until the 15th day after the end of the period that the protections against terminations apply (initially three months).
Moving to a new rental property
Alert Level 2
At Alert Level 2, which began on 14 May 2020, tenants are able to move to a new rental property. Removal companies will be able to assist with moving, with some conditions: movers will have to comply with physical distancing, personal hygiene and surface cleaning rules and should keep records for contact tracing purposes.
Friends and family can help tenants move. If they are well known to the tenant, physical distancing procedures are not required. However, we recommend that personal hygiene and surface cleaning procedures are still adhered to and that those moving record the names and contact details of people who helped.
Open homes are permitted under Alert Level 2 with the tenant’s consent as long as the guidance on physical distancing, personal hygiene and surface cleaning for Alert Level 2 is observed. Records should be kept for contact tracing purposes.
The Real Estate Authority is developing guidance for in-person inspections for properties for sale and these guidelines should be applied to rental viewings. This guidance will be available shortly.
Final inspections of rental properties can take place under Alert Level 2. Landlords and tenants should adhere to physical distancing, personal hygiene and surface cleaning and should keep records for contact tracing purposes.
If you are self-isolating with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 you should follow Ministry of Health guidelines (external link) . If possible, you should stay self-isolated in your current property until you are recovered.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) can provide temporary accommodation for people who need to self-isolate. To register your details with the Temporary Accommodation Service, please call 0508 754 163. More information is available at temporaryaccommodation.mbie.govt.nz (external link) .
Alert Level 3
At Alert Level 3, which began on 28 April 2020, tenants are allowed to move to a new property. Moving companies can help with the move. They need to meet physical distancing rules and should keep records for contact tracing.
Open homes where multiple people view a property cannot take place.
In-person viewings for rental properties can take place under Alert Level 3. If the property is tenanted, the landlord will need approval from the tenants and viewings should only occur when the tenants are not on the property. A maximum of two viewings per day is allowed at a rental property, to minimise the time a tenant has to be away from home.
During viewings, physical distance should be maintained and contact with surfaces kept at a minimum. This includes doors handles, taps and cupboards. Anything that is touched should be wiped with disinfectant. Where possible, tenants should leave internal doors open before a viewing to allow contactless movement through the rooms.
People should not attend in-person viewings if they are unwell or have been in close contact with anyone who is unwell or suspects they may have COVID-19.
Final inspections of rental properties can take place under Alert Level 3 if the tenants are not home and only with the tenant’s approval, or have moved out of the property. At the end of the tenancy, the landlord and tenant should not do the final property inspection together. We recommend tenants take photos of the property’s condition before leaving.
If you have problems
Stress levels are high at the moment, and sometimes there may be problems that arise.