Tenants and landlords need to know what to do when rent is overdue, and where they can go for help.

If tenants don’t pay the rent on time it is a breach of the tenancy agreement and the Residential Tenancies Act. The tenancy agreement will say how the rent is to be paid and when.

Responsibility for paying the rent

The tenant is the person (or people) named on the tenancy agreement as tenants. They are legally responsible for paying the rent. Tenants can’t refuse to pay rent while waiting for the landlord to fix something.

If there are multiple tenants, and one of them causes the rent payment to be missed or short, all other tenants are responsible for the overdue rent. They will have to pay the debt if the offending tenant does not.

If someone else shares the house, but they are not named as a tenant on the tenancy agreement, they’re likely to be a flatmate. Flatmates pay rent to the tenant. They’re not part of the tenancy agreement, and they’re responsible to the tenant, not the landlord.

Difference between tenants and flatmates

What to do if you're a landlord

Check with the tenant to see if they’re aware of the missed payment. Talk to them about what’s happened, and discuss how they plan to bring rent up to date. 

If they’re having difficulty, you could let them add an amount to their regular rent until they’ve paid the debt. Record any agreement in writing.

If you can’t reach an agreement:

Solving problems through self-resolution 

What to do if you're a tenant

If you’ve missed a payment, or you’re having difficulty paying, contact your landlord immediately to let them know.

You should pay whatever you can straight away. A part payment is better than nothing.

Don’t avoid or ignore your landlord’s calls or messages. Be honest with them, and they might work with you on a solution. They may let you add an amount to your regular rent until you’ve paid the debt. There are more tips on how to work with your landlord in our self-resolution section.

If you think you’ll have trouble paying in future, think about other options:

  • check whether your tenancy agreement allows you to have paying boarders/flatmates
  • get in touch with budgeting services, Work and Income(external link), or other agencies to see if support is available
  • think about whether you can afford to stay in the tenancy, or if you need to explore cheaper options.

COVID-19 recovery: Guidance for discussions about rent

Terminating a periodic tenancy for repeated instances of missed rent

Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act

From 11 February 2021, a new section of the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) 1986 provides landlords with an additional option for responding to rent arrears during a periodic tenancy.

Section 55(1)(aa) was introduced through the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020.

It is additional to existing provisions under sections 55 and 56 of the RTA, which gives landlords the ability to seek termination of a tenancy in certain situations, including unpaid rent.

Read our fact sheet for an overview of the new rent arrears laws [PDF, 229 KB]

More details about how landlords charge rent and how tenants pay rent

Process for repeated instances of missed rent

Landlords may ­now apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to terminate a periodic tenancy if the following occurs:

1. On three separate occasions within a 90-day period, an amount of rent that was due has remained unpaid for at least five working days. 

Example of a separate occasion:

Rent is due on 10 July. If, after five working days, some, or all, of the rent that was due on 10 July has not been paid, the landlord may issue a notice.

A second notice can be served if rent falls due again and that rent, or a part of it, has not been paid within five working days of the second due date. The second notice can be served regardless of whether the rent due under the first notice has been paid.

A third notice can be served in the same way as a second notice.

2. On each of the three occasions, the landlord gives the tenant written notice advising the tenant of the unpaid rent. The written notice must include:

  • the amount of overdue rent
  • dates for which the rent was/is overdue
  • the tenant’s right to make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal challenging the notice
  • how many other notices of overdue rent (that met these requirements) the landlord has given the tenant in the relevant 90-day period.

Download the ‘Notice of overdue rent’ template below

The landlord can then file an application to the Tenancy Tribunal within 28 days after the third notice was given to the tenant. The landlord will have to prove that rent was due and remained unpaid for at least five working days on three separate occasions within a 90-day period, and that the three notices given met the requirements above.

A tenant may challenge the notice(s) by making an application to the Tenancy Tribunal. The tenant will have to prove that the rent was not five working days overdue or that a notice didn’t meet the requirements above.

Example scenarios

The following graphics include example scenarios of unpaid rent within a 90-day period, and actions the landlord has taken to resolve the issue.

Landlords should always consider all of the options available to them when deciding the best course of action for their particular situation. Landlords and tenants should initially try talking to each other to self-resolve these issues.

Notes for viewing the graphics:

  • Refer to key status of paid and unpaid rent
  • Rent due date for each scenario falls on a Wednesday
  • Text boxes explain action taken by the landlord within the 90-day period

Example scenario 1

The landlord issues a 14-day notice to remedy following the first case of rent arrears.

Once rent has remained unpaid for five working days after the rent due date, the landlord issues the first Notice of overdue rent.

The landlord repeats the above step following the second and third occasions of rent remaining unpaid for at least five working days after the rent due date.

Once three notices of overdue rent have been issued within a 90-day period, the landlord can apply for termination under section 55(1)(aa).

[PDF, 439 KB] View graphic for example scenario 1 [PDF, 439 KB]

Example scenario 2

Once rent has remained unpaid for five working days after the rent due date, the landlord issues the first Notice of overdue rent. A separate 14-day notice to remedy is also issued.

The landlord has the option to issue Notice of overdue rent #2 (following unpaid rent for five working days after the second rent due date).

The landlord makes a section 55(external link) application to the Tenancy Tribunal following rent being unpaid for 21 days.

[PDF, 426 KB] View graphic for example scenario 2 [PDF, 426 KB]

 

Example scenario 3

Once rent has remained unpaid for five working days after the rent due date the landlord issues the first Notice of overdue rent. A separate 14-day notice to remedy is also issued.

Following the second occasion of rent remaining unpaid for five working days after the rent due date, the landlord issues a second Notice of overdue rent.

The landlord repeats the above step and sends a third notice.

Once three notices of overdue rent have been issued within a 90-day period, the landlord can apply for termination under section 55(1)(aa).

[PDF, 433 KB] View graphic for example scenario 3 [PDF, 433 KB]

Example scenario 4

The landlord issues a 14-day notice to remedy on day two of rent arrears. After receiving the notice, the tenant pays the unpaid rent.

On the second occasion of rent arrears, the rent remains unpaid for at least five working days after the rent due date. The landlord issues the first Notice of overdue rent and the second 14-day notice to remedy.

A second and third notice are then issued following unpaid rent of at least five working days after the rent due day.

Once three notices of overdue rent have been issued within a 90-day period, the landlord can apply for termination under section 55(1)(aa).

[PDF, 438 KB] View graphic for example scenario 4 [PDF, 438 KB]

 

Example scenario 5

The tenant makes up for one week's missed rent. The landlord still decides to issue Notice of overdue rent #1 due to rent being unpaid for at least five working days after the rent due date.

A second and third notice are then issued following separate occasions of unpaid rent for at least five working days after the rent due day.

Once three notices of overdue rent have been issued within a 90-day period, the landlord can apply for termination under section 55(1)(aa).

[PDF, 436 KB] View graphic for example scenario 5 [PDF, 436 KB]
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