30 Mar 2020

Your Covid-19 questions answered: Rental rules in the lockdown

3:24 pm on 30 March 2020

One of the key factors to helping stop the Covid-19 outbreak will be having somewhere you can reliably call home to self-isolate.

14588891 - rental agreement form with signing hand and keys and pen

Photo: 123RF

We have been inundated with questions from readers and listeners asking about rental properties and agreements.

So we have cribbed together the below summary from the official advice:

Can my landlord terminate my tenancy during the lockdown?

The government passed legislation to ensure this is not possible, except in 'exceptional circumstances' or if the landlord and tenants agree.

These protections last for an initial three months.

The 'exceptional circumstances' for a landlord being able to terminate a tenancy include: there is a lot of damage to the property; it is abandoned; threatening behaviour occurs; the tenants engage in significant anti-social behaviour, they fall 60 days behind in rent (up from the previous 21), the sole tenant dies or the property is uninhabitable.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

Who makes sure these rules are being followed?

The Tenancy Tribunal. It is able to order damages of up to $6500 when people break the rules (around termination and rent increases).

It is encouraging people to talk issues through openly and sensibly:

"Landlords and tenants should talk to each other, work together and take care of each other wherever possible. Try to come to an arrangement that suits everyone."

What happens if I received a termination notice before the lockdown?

As long as it was not for the exceptional reasons noted above, you can choose to remain in the property.

Can my rent be increased now?

The government put in place a six month rent freeze from 26 March. So, nope. No hikes.

Can I, as a tenant, still end a tenancy if I want?

Yes, you can. However, the government is encouraging you not to unless it is "absolutely necessary".

I quote: "(Tenants need) to think carefully about whether they are managing the risk of spreading Coronavirus in doing so."

If you had already given notice but now need to stay put, you can. Talk to your landlord.

Can I move flat or house at the moment?

Big soz, that's a no-no. You needed to have completed your move by Friday, 27 March.

What happens if I am on a fixed-term tenancy that is due to end during the lockdown?

This can convert to a periodic tenancy - one where a notice period can be given. You can also agree another fixed term with the landlord or decide to depart.

Sources: Tenancy Tribunal and Ministry of Housing and Urban Development

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