Home | Browse Topics | Health & disability | Disability rights | Renting a flat: Access to housing and accommodation

Health & disability

Renting a flat: Access to housing and accommodation


Discrimination by landlords against disabled people is illegal

Human Rights Act 1993, s 53

It’s illegal for landlords to discriminate against you because of your impairment. This section covers situations where landlords do any of the following things because of your impairment:

  • decide not to rent a place to you
  • treat you differently when they rent to you, including giving you worse terms (like charging you more rent) than other people
  • end your tenancy, or decide not to renew it.

This includes when real estate agents, property managers or lawyers are acting on behalf of the landlord.

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 12, 109, Schedule 1A

If a landlord does discriminate against you, the Tenancy Tribunal can order them to pay you a penalty of up to $4,000.

But discrimination is allowed if they would be sharing the place with you – for example, if the tenancy is in their name.

There are also some key exceptions that can permit discrimination in some cases, for example on the basis of risk (see below, “Exceptions for unreasonable accommodation”).

Example: Landlord ending a tenancy because of the tenant’s impairment

Case: Tenancy Tribunal, Tauranga 4060586

The tenant of an apartment had chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. The landlord was generally aware of the tenant’s impairment when the tenancy began, and the two had a reasonably good relationship for a few months. But then it started to break down. The tenant made several complaints, including about the lack of a proper lock, and also about being disturbed by the landlord playing music and their dog barking. The tenant recorded some of their conversations, including when the landlord said things to her like “You sicko”.

The landlord gave the tenant notice to move out. The Tenancy Tribunal decided that the landlord was motivated partly by the tenant’s complaint about not having a proper lock, which meant the notice was illegal. This is the kind of serious breach of a tenant’s rights that the tenancy laws set large penalties for, and the Tribunal ordered the landlord to pay the tenant $1,800.

But the Tenancy Tribunal also found that the landlord ended the tenancy partly because of the demands the tenant was making because of her poor health. This meant this was a case of disability discrimination, which is also a breach that the Tribunal can award a penalty for.

However, in this case the Tribunal didn’t order any additional penalty above the $1,800 for retaliating against the complaint about the lock, because the two breaches involved essentially the same act – the landlord’s ending of the tenancy.

Exceptions for “unreasonable accommodation”

Human Rights Act 1993, s 56(3)

The landlord can discriminate against you because of your impairment – for example, refusing to rent to you – if you’d need special facilities or services and it would be unreasonable to expect the landlord to provide them.

Human Rights Act 1993, s 56(1), (2); Case: Tenancy Tribunal Palm Nth 410884

The landlord can also discriminate against you if your impairment poses an unreasonable risk of harm to you or to other people and reducing the risk to normal levels would cause an unreasonable amount of disruption. The risk to other people can include the risk of infecting them with a physical illness, but it can also include non-physical harm – for example, when a person’s behaviour interferes with other tenants’ peace, comfort or privacy.

Example: The “risk of harm” exception

Case: Tenancy Tribunal, Palmerston North 410884

he tenant, who had a mental health condition, rented a room in a boarding house with a total of 14 residents. This shared house was run by a charitable trust that provides accommodation for vulnerable people who find it hard to rent in the private market or to get council or state housing.

The tenant was given notice by the landlord that they were ending the tenancy. The tenant had made several complaints to the landlord about the place and about the other residents – for example, that the light in the toilet didn’t work and that the other residents had been rude to him.

But the charitable trust told the Tenancy Tribunal that the tenant’s behaviour, not his complaints, were the reason for ending the tenancy. They said he’d been annoying other residents and had sent the manager a large number of texts about very trivial things (like other tenants leaving cereal on the bench). They also said they’d fixed the problems the tenant had complained about. The Tribunal accepted that the landlord hadn’t given notice because the tenant had asked for some work to be done at the boarding house, but because of the tenant’s behaviour and the way he communicated with staff and other tenants.

The Tribunal noted that the landlord had said that the tenant’s behaviour was the reason for ending the tenancy, but the landlord had also explicitly linked this to his mental health issues, which they said they weren’t equipped to handle.

The Tribunal said that you can’t always separate a person’s behaviour from their psychiatric issues, and that the landlord had seen the tenant’s mental health issues as causing his behaviour. Because of that, the Tribunal decided, the decision to end the tenancy was influenced by the mental health issues.

However, the Tribunal found that the “risk of harm” exception from discrimination law applied here. This meant that although the landlord had ended the tenancy because of the tenant’s mental health condition, it wasn’t illegal in this case. The kind of harm covered by this exception includes interfering with other tenants’ peace, comfort or privacy.

The Tribunal said that the purpose of the anti-discrimination laws was to protect against discrimination based on stereotypes. In this case, it noted that the charitable trust accommodates other tenants with mental health issues, and accepted that it was the specific behaviour of this particular tenant, and the risk this presented to other tenants, that had motivated the trust to end his tenancy.

Did this answer your question?

Disability rights

Where to go for more support

COVID-19 information


The Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) has up-to-date COVID-19 information for the disabled community on their website. They also post new information on their Facebook page and their Information Exchange newsletter. You can sign up by going to the website linked above. For more information about DPA, see below.

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Auckland Disability Law



ADL provides assistance and referrals to disabled people on their legal issues, and work with other Community Law Centres, legal professionals and community organisations to raise disability awareness and achieve the best outcome for disabled people.

Office for Disability Issues


The Office for Disability Issues is the focal point in government on disability issues.

Human Rights Commission


This page on the HRC website focuses on the Commission’s work around both individual and systemic disability discrimination. There are resources available in multiple accessible formats.

Health and Disability Commissioner


Phone: 0800 11 22 33
Email: hdc@hdc.org.nz

The Health and Disability Commissioner has a range of pamphlets and other information on health and disability issues.

Contact a Health and Disability Advocate

Phone: 0800 555 050

Make a complaint to the Commissioner

Phone: 0800 11 22 33
Email: hdc@hdc.org.nz

PO Box 1791, Auckland

You can make a complaint by phoning the Commissioner’s office toll-free, by email, by filling in the online complaint form or by writing to them.

Ministry of Health Services and Support


Publicly funded health and disability services available in New Zealand.

Disabled Persons Assembly


The DPA is a pan-disability organisation. DPA works to improve social indicators for disabled people and for disabled people be recognised as valued members of society. DPA and its members work with the wider disability community, other disabled persons’ organisations, government agencies, service providers, international disability organisations and the public.

People First


People First New Zealand is a self-advocacy organisation that is led and directed by people with learning (intellectual) disability. People First has a free Disability Information and Advice Service and they also produce legal resources in Easy Read form which are free to download from their website.

Deaf Aotearoa


Deaf Aotearoa is a national organisation representing the voice of Deaf people, and the national service provider for Deaf people in New Zealand.

Deaf Aotearoa also works closely with Deaf communities, government agencies and other organisations to increase awareness, promote New Zealand Sign Language and strengthen the rights of Deaf people.

Family Violence – It’s Not OK


Phone: 0800 456 450

“It’s not OK” is a community-driven behaviour change campaign to reduce family violence in New Zealand. Its goal is to change attitudes and behaviour that tolerate any kind of family violence. The website has resources for families who are experiencing abuse. It’s not OK is an initiative housed within the Ministry of Social Development.

Family violence and disabled people


Inclusive Education


This site provides New Zealand educators with practical strategies, suggestions and resources to support the diverse needs of all learners.

Attitude Toolbox: The Whole Truth about Courts and Justice


This accessible video has information about the New Zealand justice system and courts. The video is presented in New Zealand Sign Language and fully subtitled in English.

New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal


This Tribunal hears and determines disciplinary proceedings brought against health practitioners.

Public Trust


Public Trust is New Zealand’s largest provider of Wills and estate administration services.

Te Rōpū Taurima


Te Rōpū Taurima is a kaupapa Māori service that supports people of all ethnicities with intellectual impairments around New Zealand.

Le Va


Le Va supports Pasifika families and communities to unleash their full potential and have the best possible health and wellbeing outcomes.

Blind Low Vision NZ

(previously called Blind Foundation)


Blind Low Vision NZ is New Zealand’s main provider of support to New Zealanders who are blind or have low vision.



Phone: 0800 24 33 33

Achieve is a national network established to ensure equal opportunity and access to post-secondary education and training for people with impairments.

Privacy Commissioner


Phone: 0800 803 909
Email: enquiries@privacy.org.nz

You can download the pamphlet “Your Health Information: Know Your Privacy Rights” from the Privacy Commissioner’s website, at: www.privacy.org.nz

You can also download a copy of the Health Information Privacy Code from: www.privacy.org.nz/the-privacy-act-and-codes/codes-of-practice/health-information-privacy-code-1994

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life. It’s for people living in Aotearoa New Zealand (and their advocates) to help themselves.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top