If you’re renting and your home has been damaged by flooding or extreme weather, you have minimum legal rights around the property being repaired and maintained in a reasonable condition. You also have the right to stop paying rent if the house can’t be lived in because of the damage.
You have these rights even if they aren’t mentioned in your tenancy agreement.
For more information on your rights while renting, see: “Tenancy and housing” in the Community Law Manual.
Your rights as a tenant
I’m renting and my home has been damaged by floods. Who is responsible for repairs?
As a tenant, you aren’t responsible for the cost of damage caused by a natural disaster. You also aren’t responsible for organising the repairs, but you can get repair work done and get reimbursed in some situations (see below).
Your landlord is responsible for maintaining the property in a reasonable condition. This includes repairing and paying for the repairs of any damage caused by a natural disaster.
if there is water damage. If this uses up power (for example, if your landlord gets you a dehumidifier), they need to refund you for any extra electricity charges.
If you’re in this situation, you might want to compare electricity bills from before and after the extreme weather event. This can give you an idea of the true amount of this “extra” charge to ask your landlord to pay.
I’m renting and my home has been damaged by floods. If my landlord doesn’t fix the repairs, can I organise them myself?
You can get the repair work done, and then later require your landlord to reimburse you, if:
- the damage needs to be repaired urgently. For example, if it’s likely to cause injury or harm to people or further damage to the property, and
- You have made reasonable attempts to inform the landlord first. It’s a good idea to put this in writing, either by letter, email or text message.
If your landlord refuses or fails to fix something they are responsible for, you can also issue them with a 14-day notice to fix the damage. You can download a template for this here. If they don’t resolve the issue in this time, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to get a work order for the repairs.
You can’t refuse to pay rent while waiting for the landlord to fix something, but you can negotiate with your landlord to get a rent reduction. See: “I’m struggling to pay rent” below for more information about rent reductions.
How much notice does my landlord need to give to enter my home if there’s been an emergency?
Landlords normally have to give at least 24 hours’ notice before entering the property for necessary repairs or maintenance.
In the case of an emergency, they can enter without notice. This should only be when the emergency is happening – for example, they could enter without notice during an extreme weather event, but they should give at least 24 hours notice to come in to do repairs after the extreme weather event has passed.
Can my landlord make me move out while?
Your landlord should let you stay at the property while repairs are happening, unless it isn’t practical. They should negotiate with you about moving out while repairs are being completed, letting you know how long repairs are expected to take, and when you’ll be able to move back in. It’s a good idea to get any agreements you make with your landlord in writing (either by letter, email or text message).
Your landlord doesn’t have to provide you another place to stay, but if they ask to move out, you don’t have to pay rent until the property can be lived in again.
The home I rent has been damaged, but I’m still staying there. Can I get a rent reduction while repairs are happening?
If the property is partially damaged, you should get a rent reduction for the parts of the property that you can’t use. This isn’t automatic though – you shouldn’t stop paying before you and your landlord agree.
If whole rooms aren’t usable, you should get a rent reduction for those rooms. For example, if half of the house is unusable, your rent should be reduced by half.
If some facilities aren’t usable, you should get a rent reduction for the cost of the inconvenience caused. For example, if your shower isn’t working, your rent should be reduced to reflect the cost of showering somewhere else.
If you don’t want to stay in the property while it is being fixed, you and should try to come to an agreement with the landlord about staying elsewhere (and not paying rent) while the repairs are done, or ending the tenancy. If you can’t agree, you or your landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to help make and order a decision.
What if the property I rent isn’t liveable after a natural disaster?
If the property isn’t liveable – for example, if there is extensive water damage that can’t be repaired – you can give notice to end the tenancy. As a tenant, you only need to give 2 days’ notice. Your landlord needs to give at least 7 days’ notice.
This only applies where the property has been destroyed, or can’t be lived in.
I’m struggling to pay rent due to the floods. What can I do?
As a first step, you should talk to your landlord about a temporary rent reduction. You should set out the amount you can afford and a timeframe for the reduction in writing, with an explanation of how your situation has changed because of the flooding (for example, if your hours at work have been reduced temporarily). You can find more information about asking for a rent reduction on the Tenancy Services website here.
If you can’t come to an agreement, you may want to end the tenancy. The process for this depends on the kind of tenancy agreement you have.
If you have a periodic tenancy, you just need to give 28 days’ notice to end it. You and your landlord can agree to a shorter notice period if you choose. This will end the tenancy for all tenants.
You should put your notice, and any other agreements, in writing (either by letter, email or text message).
If you have a fixed-term tenancy, you may have a notice period in your tenancy agreement. Your landlord can also charge you a fee for leaving the tenancy early – the amount should also be set out in your agreement, and it can’t be more than their reasonable and actual costs (for example, the cost of advertising for new tenants).
Some fixed-term tenancy agreements will require you to keep paying rent until the end of the tenancy. If you’re in this situation, you have two options:
- Assign the tenancy to someone else.
- Apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to end the tenancy on the basis of financial hardship.
For more information on how to assign the tenancy or end it through the Tenancy Tribunal, see “Moving out” in the Community Law Manual.
I need temporary accommodation due to the floods, where can I go?
If you need immediate emergency accommodation due to a natural disaster or state of emergency, you can contact your local Civil Defence Centre –www.civildefence.govt.nz / 04 830 5100.
You can apply for emergency housing through the Ministry of Social Development – www.workandincome.govt.nz or call 0800 400 100.
Following a natural disaster, the Temporary Accommodation Service can also provide ongoing temporary accommodation assistance for displaced persons – www.tas.mbie.govt.nz or call 0508 754 163.
Need more information or legal advice? Contact your local Community Law Centre.