Moving out: When and how tenancies end
When the Tenancy Tribunal can end a tenancy
Overdue rent, anti-social behaviour, or hardship: Landlord can apply for a Tribunal termination order
From February 2021, there are certain situations where your landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for an order ending your tenancy (a “termination order”).Including in the following situations:
- Overdue rent – The Tribunal can make a termination order if you get behind on rent (for five working days or more) three times within a 90-day period. This works like a “three-strikes” policy. But your landlord has to prove that they gave notice every time you were behind in rent, advised you of your right to challenge the notice, and applied to the Tribunal in time (within 28 days of the third notice).
- Anti-social behaviour – A landlord can also apply for a termination order for anti-social behaviour. They need to prove that you or anyone you allowed on the property harassed, or did something causing harm, distress, or nuisance three times within 90 days. The Tribunal will end the tenancy if it’s satisfied that your landlord gave notice containing the details of each incident, and if it wouldn’t be unfair in the circumstances.
- Hardship – The Tribunal can only make a termination order if the landlord can show they would suffer an unreasonable amount of hardship, more than what you would suffer if the tenancy were to continue. The Tribunal must take into account the impact that the termination would have on you.
Example: Retaliation for exercising your rights?
A tenant 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, who had a mental illness, was given notice by the landlord that they were ending the tenancy. The tenant had made a number of complaints to the landlord about the place and the other residents – for example, that the light in the toilet didn’t work and that the other residents had been rude to him. The tenant argued that the landlord gave him notice to end the tenancy to get back at him (“retaliation”) for making complaints.
The charitable trust told the Tenancy Tribunal that the tenant’s behaviour, not his complaints, were the reason for ending the tenancy. They had fixed the problems he complained about. 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).
The Tribunal concluded 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.
Landlord or tenant can apply to end tenancy for a breach of the tenancy agreement
Either you or your landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a termination order ending the tenancy if the other side has breached the tenancy agreement or the Residential Tenancies Act and hasn’t fixed the problem. The other side has to have been given a notice saying what the problem is and telling them to fix it within a set time, which has to be at least two weeks. The tribunal can end the tenancy if it’s satisfied that it would be unfair (“inequitable”) not to do this. The landlord can use this process if, for example, you’re behind in the rent or you’ve damaged the property.
Special COVID-19 rules for existing Tenancy Tribunal termination orders
Termination orders made by the Tenancy Tribunal before 26 March 2020 were temporarily suspended from 26 March until 10 July 2020 – but this didn’t apply to orders made for non-payment of rent, or for damage or assault.
Your landlord can apply for a possession order if you don’t move out
If your tenancy ends but you don’t leave, the landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a “possession order” telling you to leave. Until you leave, your responsibilities as the tenant continue, including paying rent.
The tribunal can’t make a possession order if it’s more than three months (90 days) since the end of the tenancy. If the landlord hasn’t got a possession order within that time, the law says you have a new periodic (“indefinite”) tenancy on the same terms and conditions as your previous tenancy agreement.
To enforce a “possession order”, the landlord has to go to the District Court. You’ll then be evicted by a court official (a “bailiff”) with help from the police. It’s against the law for landlords to evict tenants themselves: they can be fined up to $2,000 for doing this.
The landlord has three months (90 days) to take the possession order to the District Court to get it enforced. If they haven’t done this after three months, a new periodic tenancy starts, on the same terms and conditions as the previous tenancy.