If a rental property has been damaged in a natural disaster – such as an earthquake, a storm or a flood – the landlord and tenant should get in touch with each other to check everyone is safe and to discuss any damage.

Engineering Report and payment of rent

Payment of rent when a tenant moves out of a rental property

If you have concerns your property has been affected by an earthquake, the first step is to speak to your landlord. If you and your landlord cannot come to an agreement, contact Tenancy Services to discuss your individual circumstances and what options may be available to you.

It is a tenant’s responsibility to pay the rent when it is due and payable. Failure to do so is a breach of the Residential Tenancies Act and may allow a landlord to take action against a tenant for this breach. That being said, in the event of the premises being destroyed or so seriously damaged that it is wholly or partially uninhabitable the rent payable will be reduced or removed accordingly.

Structural engineering report after a natural disaster

Landlords are obliged to ensure the property they are renting out complies with all building health and safety requirements. Depending on the property, the landlord may need to work with the building owner/body corporate to ensure the building is checked, or may need to arrange their own engineering assessment which needs to be done by a chartered professional engineer, to ensure they are meeting their obligations as a landlord.

While it is best practice, the RTA does not state the landlord must provide the tenant with an engineer’s report.

If you have concerns your apartment has been affected by an earthquake, the first step is to speak to your landlord and discuss whether an inspection of the property is required. If you and your landlord cannot come to an agreement, you should contact your territorial authority (local council) to discuss these matters.

Repairs after a natural disaster

Talk with your landlord or tenant

After a disaster, landlords and tenants should get in touch with each other and talk about any damage. If repairs are needed, discuss when they need doing, and whether the tenant can stay in the property while repairs are underway.

If the tenant can stay while repairs are done

If you’re the landlord, check with your repairer (or the Earthquake Commission, in the case of an earthquake) that it’s possible and safe for your tenants to stay in the property while repair work is done.

Check on progress regularly. Let the tenant know how long the repairs will take, especially if they’re taking longer than first expected. Remember that you must give 24 hours’ notice if you want to come inside to inspect the builder’s work.

You may consider offering the tenant a reduction in rent to compensate them for any inconvenience. In some cases you may agree that ending the tenancy early is best for both of you.

Remember to record any agreements you make in writing.

If the tenant has to move out while repairs are being done

If you’re the landlord, negotiate with your tenants to leave the property while the work’s being done. If you can’t reach an agreement, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to resolve the dispute.

Our disputes section tells you more about how to resolve tenancy issues.

Let your tenant know how long the repairs are expected to take, and when it’s likely they’ll be able to move back in. You don’t have to provide alternative accommodation, but you may be able to help them find another property to move into.

If you’re the tenant, and the landlord asks you to move out while repairs are being done, you won’t have to pay rent until the house can be lived in again.

Remember to record any agreements you make in writing.

Make sure all repairs comply with the Building Code

The safe and healthy homes page has information on the Building Code.

For further information please visit the website of your local council or read about building code compliance on the Building Performance website.(external link)

Be aware of your rights and responsibilities

You need to be aware of your rights and responsibilities after you sign a tenancy agreement.

Our information on key rights and responsibilities lists key tenancy rights and responsibilities in English and other languages.

If the landlord doesn’t repair the damage

If you’re a tenant renting a property that you think has become unsafe or unsanitary, and the landlord has done nothing to fix the problem, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to sort it out.

The Tenancy Tribunal section explains more about the Tribunal process.

Damages in a natural disaster

Partial destruction of premises

Where the premises are partially destroyed, or part of the premises is so seriously damaged as to be uninhabitable:

a. the rent shall abate accordingly; and
b. either party may apply to the Tribunal for an order terminating the tenancy, and the Tribunal may make such an order if it is satisfied that it would be unreasonable to require the landlord to reinstate the property or (as the case may require) to require the tenant to continue with the tenancy albeit at a reduced rent.

Destruction of premises

In a natural disaster, if the premises are destroyed, or are so seriously damaged as to be uninhabitable:

a. the rent shall abate accordingly; and
b. either party may give notice to the other terminating the tenancy.

This applies to both periodic and fixed-term tenancies.

In these circumstances, landlords need to give 7 days' notice and tenants need to give 2 days' notice.

Read information about destroyed premises on the Legislation website(external link)

Temporary accommodation

If you need to locate a suitable temporary accommodation option during repair or reinstatement work to your home, here are some useful tips designed to reduce pressure at move-out time.

  1. The first thing to confirm is when and how long you’ll need to move out for – your builder or landlord will be able to provide you with the dates and details.
  2. If you have insurance, review your policy to determine what amount you have for temporary accommodation costs, furthermore, determine if this amount will need to cover any moving and storage costs as well as any kennelling of your pets if you can’t take them with you. Note: insurance policies vary widely between and within private insurers so you’re best to contact your insurer for entitlement information specific to your policy.
  3. Act promptly to avoid extra stress later on - speak to friends, family, workmates and neighbours about your upcoming accommodation needs – word of mouth works.
  4. Set up a TradeMe, Holiday Houses, BookaBach search that emails any new properties to you each day, register with property management firms and check out local school and supermarket notice boards for available houses.
  5. If you are vacating your private rental on a temporary or permanent basis consider having a discussion with your landlord about transferring your bond to the next address.

Renting a property with earthquake or flood damage

Be aware that significantly damaged properties may not get insurance

If an insurance company considers a house uneconomic to repair, they won’t insure it. Make sure you ask the landlord whether the house is insured before you rent it. If it’s not insured, check with your insurer to see if this affects your personal insurance policies (such as contents insurance).

Find out how bad the damage is

When inspecting a possible rental property for the first time, take notes and ask about the damage from the earthquake or flood. If the property needs repairs, ask the landlord or property manager if repairs are planned. Be aware that you may need to move out temporarily for significant or lengthy repairs. Get local advice if you need it.

Liability for damage caused by aftershock activity

Tenants are generally not responsible for damage if they cannot reasonably foresee that something may cause damage e.g. the initial earthquake. With continuing aftershocks liability for damage caused by aftershock activity may change especially if the tenant has not taken steps to secure things that might fall and cause damage to the property. Continuing aftershock activity is more likely to be viewed as a reasonably foreseeable event.

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