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Moving out: When and how tenancies end

The end of a fixed-term tenancy: Reaching the agreed end date

When does a fixed-term tenancy end?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 50, 60A-60C

A fixed-term tenancy of 90 days (three months) or less finishes on the end date that’s specified in the agreement.

A fixed-term tenancy of more than 90 days automatically continues as a new indefinite (periodic) tenancy after the end date of the fixed term, unless:

  • you and the landlord enter into a new agreement or extend the existing one, or
  • you give written notice to the landlord that you intend not to continue with the tenancy. This notice has to be given no later than 28 days (four weeks) before the end date of the fixed term, but not earlier than 90 days before the end date. You don’t need to say why you’re giving notice.

Can a fixed-term tenancy be ended early?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 50, 66

You can’t give notice to end a fixed-term tenancy early – you’re legally bound to keep paying the rent until the end of the fixed term.

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 43B

But, you could “assign” your tenancy to someone else. This is where someone takes over your tenancy, allowing you to get out of it early. This is where you transfer all of the rights you hold under your lease to somebody else on an agreed date. It releases you from your tenancy agreement once the date of assignment takes effect, and it means you no longer have to pay rent.

Even though you could assign your lease (with your landlord’s agreement) before February 2021, the new law changes have made the process easier. For example, after 11 February 2021 landlords can no longer put rules in your tenancy agreement that stop you from assigning (except for social housing tenancy agreements).

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 56D

You can also apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the tenancy ended early if there’s been an unexpected (“unforeseen”) change in your situation – losing your job, for example – that means you’ll suffer “severe hardship” if the length of the tenancy isn’t reduced. But the hardship you would suffer must be greater than the hardship the landlord would suffer by having the tenancy end early.

If the Tenancy Tribunal does agree to reduce the term, it can also order you to pay the landlord reasonable compensation to cover any loss or damage they’ll be caused by the tenancy ending early.

Your landlord can also apply to have the tenancy ended early because of unexpected hardship. You and the landlord can agree to end a fixed-term tenancy early.

How do I transfer my lease to someone else? (“assign” the lease)

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 43B 

If you want to make an assignment, all you have to do is give your landlord the name and contact details of the person you want to assign your lease to and get consent from the remaining tenants. You have to do this in writing such as by letter or email. This can be done at any time during your lease and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a fixed-term or periodic lease. 

It’s illegal for your landlord to ignore your request, and they’re not allowed to unreasonably refuse. They’re also required to respond in writing in a timely manner. This means they have to make a decision based on the information you provide them, and if they refuse the assignment, they need to give reasons why, which may put you in a position to address their concerns.  

 If your landlord agrees, they can put conditions on the assignment and charge for the costs of the process. However, this has to be reasonable and they need to give you a breakdown of the fees. ‘Reasonable’ is what a reasonable person would do in the circumstances.  

Example: Reasonable conditions and the need for agreement

Case: [2021] NZTT 4299844

The tenant lived with her partner and kids. She texted her landlord that she was breaking up with her partner and wanted to leave the tenancy, asking if she could transfer it to him. The landlord replied that the tenancy would need to be changed if she was leaving. After providing a reference for her new flat application, the landlord emailed the tenant saying she needed to pay overdue rent and repair some property damage to end the tenancy. The tenant didn’t do any of these things.

The tenant argued she had been released from the tenancy on the day she texted saying she wanted to leave. But the Tribunal found that this wasn’t enough for an assignment. This was because she had only asked if it was possible to assign. She didn’t give more detail about it and her intention to go ahead with it, so there was never an agreement about it between her and the landlord. 

The Tribunal went further and said that even if the landlord and tenant had concluded an agreement, it came with the conditions to pay overdue rent and repair damage. The Tribunal found that these were reasonable conditions and they hadn’t been followed.

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Tenancy and housing

Where to go for more support

Community Law

www.communitylaw.org.nz

Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and can help you make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal.

Tenancy Services – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)

www.tenancy.govt.nz 

MBIE‘s Tenancy Services section provides information to tenants and to landlords. It also provides dispute-resolution services.

Tenancy advice line

Phone: 0800 83 62 62 (0800 TENANCY). Free translation services are available.

Bond enquiries

Phone: 0800 737 666. Free translation services are available.

Information and forms

Tenancy Services provides information and various forms online or you can order forms by phoning 0800 83 62 62 (0800 TENANC)

Applying to the Tenancy Tribunal

You can apply online, or you can get a paper copy of the form from a Tenancy Services office. The application processes are explained at:
www.tenancy.govt.nz/disputes/Tribunal/making-an-application

Tenants Protection Associations

www.tpa.org.nz

Some cities have Tenants Protection Associations:

Christchurch – (03) 379 2297,

Auckland – (09) 360 1473

Renters United

www.rentersunited.org.nz (in Wellington only)

Renters United is an organisation for renters in Wellington. They focus on organising renters and campaigning to make renting better for everyone.

Manawatu Tenants Union

Manawatu Tenants Union provides advocacy and support for renters in the Manawatu region

Phone: 06 357 7435

Email: info@mtu.org.nz

Citizens Advice Bureau

www.cab.org.nz

Phone (0800 FOR CAB) 0800 367 222

Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for information about what local tenancy services are available to you.

Kāinga Ora (formerly Housing New Zealand)

www.kaingaora.govt.nz

Kāinga Ora, which manages the state housing stock in New Zealand, has a range of information on its website.

Phone: 0800 801 601

Ministry of Social Development

www.msd.govt.nz

The Ministry of Social Development assesses eligibility for the social housing provided by Housing New Zealand and registered community housing providers. MSD also calculates income-related rent for social housing and conducts tenancy reviews.

MSD‘s social housing staff can be contacted through Work and Income offices:

Phone Work and Income on 0800 559 009 or, if you’re 65 or older, contact Senior Services on 0800 552 002.

Community Housing Regulatory Authority

www.chra.hud.govt.nz

Phone: (04) 896 5908

Email: CHRA@hud.govt.nz

The Authority approves and registers community housing providers and monitors registered providers. You can read the register of approved providers on the Authority’s website.

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