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Renting a flat: Access to housing and accommodation


Discrimination by landlords against disabled people is illegal

Human Rights Act 1993, s 53 Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 12, 109, Schedule 1A

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.

If a landlord does discriminate against you, the Tenancy Tribunal can order them to pay you a penalty of up to $6,500.

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”

Human Rights Act 1993, ss 56(1),(2),(3) Case: Tenancy Tribunal Palm Nth 410884

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.

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: When the “risk of harm” exception applies

Case: Tenancy Tribunal, Palmerston North 410884

The 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.

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Disability rights

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Auckland Disability Law (ADL) provides free legal services to disabled people associated with their disability related legal issues. ADL is the only specialist disability law community law centre in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Website: www.aucklanddisabilitylaw.org.nz/
Email: info@adl.org.nz
Phone:  09 257 5140
Text only: 027 457 5140

Disabled Persons Assembly

DPA is a pan-disability organisation run by and for disabled people. DPA and its members work with the wider disability community, other disabled persons’ organisations, government agencies, service providers, international disability organisations and the public.

Website: www.dpa.org.nz
Email: info@adl.org.nz
Phone:  04 801 9100
Facebook: www.facebook.com/dpa.nz.7

Nationwide Health & Disability Advocacy Service

The Nationwide Health & Disability Advocacy Service offers free, independent, and confidential advice to support you in resolving issues with health and disability services.

Website: www.advocacy.org.nz
Email: advocacy@advocacy.org.nz
Phone:  0800 555 050

Le Va

Le Va is working with Manatū Hauora/Ministry of Health to support Pasifika people with disabilities and their families.

Website: www.leva.co.nz/our-work/disability-support
Email: admin@leva.co.nz
Phone:  09 261 4390
Instagram: www.instagram.com/Levapasifika
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/LeVaPasifika

Te Rōpū Taurima

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

Website: www.terooputaurima.org.nz
Email: info@terooputaurima.org.nz

People First New Zealand

People First New Zealand is a self-advocacy organisation that is led and directed by people with learning disabilities.

Website: www.peoplefirst.org.nz
Email: ask@peoplefirst.org.nz
Phone:  0800 20 60 70

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.

Website: www.deaf.org.nz
Email: hello@deaf.org.nz
Phone:  0800 33 23 22
Freetext:  8223
Instagram: www.instagram.com/DeafAotearoa
Facebook: www.facebook.com/deafaotearoanz

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.

Website: www.blindlowvision.org.nz
Email: generalenquiries@blindlowvision.org.nz
Phone:  0800 24 33 33
Instagram: www.instagram.com/BlindLowVisionNZ
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/BlindLowVisionNZ

Sign Language video about the courts and justice



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

Website: www.achieve.org.nz
Email: info@achieve.org.nz
Phone:  03 479 8235

Inclusive Education

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

Website: www.inclusive.tki.org.nz
Email: inclusive@tki.org.nz

Government Agencies

Whaikaha/Ministry for Disabled

Whaikaha is the Ministry for Disabled People. On the website, it contains information about how to access support and funding and has a directory of advisory services.

Website: www.whaikaha.govt.nz
Email: contact@whaikaha.govt.nz
Phone:  0800 566 601
Text: 4206
Communication can also be made through NZ Relay Calls

Health and Disability Commissioner

The Health and Disability Commissioner website sets out your rights under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights and how you can make a complaint to the Commissioner.

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

To make a complaint online: www.hdc.org.nz/making-a-complaint/make-a-complaint-to-hdc

Office for Disabled

The Office for Disabled is administered by a small team from Whaikaha, and works closely with government agencies and the disability sector to make the best decisions for disabled people.

Website: www.odi.govt.nz
Email: office_for_disability_issues@whaikaha.govt.nz
Phone:  0800 566 601

Ministry of Health Services and Support

Website: www.health.govt.nz/your-health/services-and-support

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata/Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission website provides information about human rights in Aotearoa and outlines how you can make a complaint to the Commission about individual or systemic disability discrimination.

Website: www.tikatangata.org.nz/ or www.hrc.co.nz
Email: infoline@hrc.co.nz
Phone:  0800 496 877 (0800 4 YOUR RIGHTS)

To make a complaint online, download a complaint form or find out more about the complaints process: www.tikatangata.org.nz/resources-and-support/make-a-complaint

Privacy Commissioner

The Privacy Commissioner website provides information about your rights and responsibilities under the Privacy Act 2020 and the Privacy Principles. It also outlines the role of the Privacy Commissioner and how to make a privacy complaint.

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

To make a complaint: www.privacy.org.nz/your-rights/making-a-complaint

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