24 November 2016

If the property you own or live in has been damaged in a natural disaster – such as an earthquake, a storm or a flood – you’ll probably need to deal with repairs. 

It’s good to know how to go about this, who’s responsible for what, and what help’s available.

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 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.

Disputes 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

Safe and healthy home has information on the Building Code.
Residential building repair and reconstruction (external link) has guidance on repair work to earthquake-damaged buildings in Canterbury.

Be aware of your rights and responsibilities

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

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.

Tenancy Tribunal has more about the Tribunal process.

Temporary accommodation in Canterbury

If you have to move out of your Canterbury rental property because of earthquake-related repairs, and you intend to move back in later, you can apply to the Canterbury Earthquake Temporary Accommodation Service (CETAS).

CETAS (external link) is a free matching and placement service offering temporary accommodation, financial assistance, and social wellbeing coordination for people displaced by the Canterbury earthquakes.

You need to provide CETAS with the following documents:

  • a copy of your tenancy agreement
  • a letter from the landlord outlining the repairs needed, how long they’re expected to take, and confirmation that you’re returning afterwards
  • a copy of the letter from the repairer outlining the estimated start and finish dates of the work.

Other useful Canterbury organisations

Tenants Protection Association (external link) protects, promotes and advances the rights, interests and welfare of tenants in the Christchurch region.

Canterbury Property Investors Association (external link) allows landlords dealing with tenancy and earthquake-related problems to learn from each other.