Coronavirus and the Law
FAQs for Tenancy and Housing
Do I have to tell my landlord that I or someone I live with has COVID-19?
Do I have to tell my landlord that I or someone I live with is self-isolating?
Can my landlord kick me out or otherwise treat me differently because I or someone I live with has COVID-19?
No. It’s illegal discrimination for a landlord to treat a tenant or potential tenant differently because of a disability, including an illness like COVID-19. This means your landlord can’t kick you out because you have COVID-19. It also means if you’re looking for a place, a landlord can’t refuse to rent their property to you for that reason.
If your landlord is an individual person or business, you can choose whether to complain to the Human Rights Commission under the Human Rights Act, or to the Tenancy Tribunal under the Residential Tenancies Act. If your landlord is a public body like Housing NZ or a city council, you can only complain to the Human Rights Commission.
Ending a tenancy: Special protections for tenants during the pandemic
Can my landlord end my tenancy during the COVID-19 pandemic?
From 26 June tenancies can be ended in the usual way either by:
- you giving 21 days’ notice, or
- your landlord giving you 90 days’ notice.
However your landlord can give you 42 days’ written notice in these situations:
- if they’ve sold the property with “vacant possession”
- if they or a family member is going to live there
- if one of their employees is going to live there.
Under a temporary new law for the COVID-19 pandemic in force for the period 26 March to 25 June your landlord could only end your tenancy – kick you out – for very limited reasons, and they had to get an order from the Tenancy Tribunal. Under this temporary law, your landlord could end your tenancy only if:
- you had substantially damaged the house or flat, or
- you had assaulted or threatened to assault the landlord, one of their family, or one of your neighbours, or
- you had abandoned the house or flat, or
- you had engaged in significant anti-social behaviour – this means you had harassed someone or you had intentionally done something that caused someone significant “alarm, distress, or nuisance”, or
- you were 60 days behind in rent.
The landlord also needed to get an order from the Tenancy Tribunal to end the tenancy, based on one of those grounds. In deciding whether to end the tenancy the Tribunal will take into account what’s fair and other relevant factors, like what the effect on you will be of having to move out.
If you’re 60 days or more behind on your rent the Tribunal will also take into account whether you’ve been making reasonable efforts to pay the rent.
What if my landlord had already given me notice before the pandemic?
If before 26 March your landlord had already given you notice to end the tenancy, and you were still living in the place on 26 March, you’ll be protected by the new COVID-19 rules restricting landlords from ending tenancies. This means you don’t have to move out, unless the landlord is ending the tenancy for one of the reasons listed above.
From 26 June your landlord must reissue that notice, and the time period starts running from that later date.
What if my fixed-term tenancy ends during the pandemic?
A fixed-term tenancy automatically changed into an indefinite (“periodic”) tenancy if the fixed term ended between 26 March and 26 June, unless you and your landlord agree otherwise or you give notice to end the tenancy.
This means that if the fixed term ended during that time, you’ll be able to keep staying in the house or flat, and until 26 June you’ll be protected by the special restrictions on landlords ending tenancies. After 26 June, the normal rules for ending tenancies will apply.
Click here for information explaining about fixed-term tenancies and periodic (indefinite) tenancies.
Click here for the normal rules for ending indefinite (periodic) tenancies.
I gave my landlord notice before the lockdown began – do I have to move?
No. If you gave notice before 26 March to end the tenancy, and the end date hasn’t yet arrived and you want to stay in your home, you can withdraw the notice – even if your landlord had new tenants lined up to move into the property.
Am I allowed to move to a new flat under Level 1?
Yes, you can move houses in Level 1.
I want to end my tenancy because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Can I do this?
Yes – during the pandemic tenants are still able to end their tenancy as usual. If your tenancy is an indefinite one (a “periodic” tenancy) you can give 21 days’ written notice to end it.
If your tenancy is a fixed-term tenancy and you’d like to end it early, you could try to come to an arrangement with the landlord to cancel it. Landlords are being encouraged to be flexible during these difficult times. If you can’t come to an agreement with them, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to reduce the term of the tenancy on the grounds of “unforeseen hardship” (click here for information about going to the Tribunal).
If before 26 March you had already given notice to leave, but the end date hasn’t yet arrived and now you want to stay, you’re allowed to take back your notice.
I live in a boardinghouse – can the landlord evict me during the pandemic?
From 26 June the usual rules around ending a boardinghouse tenancy apply. That means:
- you can give 48 hours’ notice,
- your landlord can give you 4 weeks’ written notice,
- your landlord can give you 48 hours’ notice if you still owe rent 10 days after you got a written rent overdue notice from the landlord,
- your landlord can also give you 48 hours’ notice if you’ve used your room for something illegal,
- your landlord can end the tenancy immediately if you’ve caused or threatened serious damage or disruption to other tenants, or if you’re a danger to people or property.
Under a temporary new law for COVID-19 in force for three months, from 26 March to 25 June, a boardinghouse landlord could evict you only in very limited situations, and they also had to give you four weeks’ (28 days) advance notice.)
Under the temporary law, these are the situations when a boardinghouse landlord could evict you without going to the Tenancy Tribunal:
- if you caused, or threatened to cause, serious damage to the boardinghouse, or
- if you endangered, or threatened to endanger, people or property – this could include breaching COVID-19 self-isolation requirements and putting other tenants at risk, or
- if you caused, or threatened to cause, serious disruptions to other tenants, or
- if you used the place for an illegal purpose.
Under the temporary COVID-19 law, a boardinghouse landlord could also apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for an order to evict you in these two situations:
- if you were 60 days or more behind in your rent
- you’ had engaged in significant anti-social behaviour – this means you harassed someone or you intentionally did something that caused someone significant “alarm, distress, or nuisance”.
In deciding whether to end the tenancy in those two situations, the Tenancy Tribunal will consider what’s fair and other relevant factors, like the effect on you of having to move out. If you’re 60 days behind in rent it will also take into account whether you’ve been making reasonable efforts to pay the rent.
My landlord wants to sell my flat – who is allowed to enter?
Open homes are allowed under Level 1. Hygiene practices and surface cleaning must be used.
Paying your rent
Can my landlord put my rent up during the pandemic?
No. There is a rent freeze for six months, from 26 March 2020 until 25 September 2020 (and at the end of that time, the freeze might be extended if necessary). No landlord is allowed to increase the rent for any tenant during that time.
If your landlord tells you they are putting the rent up, what they say makes no difference. The rent can’t go up, and you don’t have to pay anything extra.
Does a “rent freeze” mean I don’t have to pay rent?
No – the six-month “rent freeze” from 26 March is a freeze only on landlords increasing rents. You must continue to pay the rent amount stated in your tenancy agreement.
If before 26 March your landlord gave you notice you of a rent increase, and the rent increase was to take place on or after 26 March, this notice is not legally valid and your rent amount does not change.
I can’t afford to pay my rent – what should I do?
If you can’t afford to pay your rent, let your landlord know as soon as possible. You and your landlord might be able to negotiate a change that would allow you to stay in your home and pay what you can afford. You should try to keep a good relationship with your landlord, with good communication, and be open and honest about your situation.
If you fall more than 60 days behind in rent, your landlord can go to the Tenancy Tribunal to end the tenancy (which is more than the
If you’re struggling to make your rent payments, you should also contact Work and Income to see if you qualify for any income support.
Can I ask my landlord for a rent reduction if I’m struggling to pay rent?
Yes you can, and we have a template letter that you may like to use for this here, add relevant information and send to your Landlord.
If you cannot reach agreement with your landlord and need to leave the tenancy early because you can no longer afford the rent.
My flatmates have stopped paying rent – will I be held responsible for their rent? What can I do about this?
If everyone living in the flat has signed the tenancy agreement, you will all have tenancy rights and obligations. This means that if one tenant gets behind in paying rent, all other tenants can be held responsible.
Let your landlord know that your flatmates have stopped paying rent and that you’re having difficulty making the full payments by yourself. You may be able to come to an arrangement with the landlord. However, you’re still legally responsible for the rent and your landlord can ask you to pay what is due.
Landlords can apply for a Tenancy Tribunal order to make you pay unpaid rent even though, under the new COVID-19 tenancy laws, they can’t ask the Tribunal to end the tenancy because you’re less than 60 days behind.
Keep a record of how far behind your flatmates are in paying what would usually be their share of the rent and any communications you have with them about the issue. You may be able to recover some or all of the rent from the flatmates by applying to the Disputes Tribunal.
Repairs and inspections
What do I do if my home needs repairs or maintenance?
Under Level 1 your landlord or tradespeople can do repairs or maintenance on your home.
Can my landlord inspect the property?
Under Level 1 your landlord can do routine inspections of the property as long as they give you 48 hours’ notice. You can be present during the inspection if you wish.
Tenants in social or community housing
What about tenants of community housing providers like Kāinga Ora? Do the new COVID-19 tenancy law changes apply to them too?
Yes. All the changes apply to social housing tenancies as well as the private rental market. This includes the key changes about landlords ending tenancies and the new rent freeze.
Resolving disputes with your landlord: Going to the Tenancy Tribunal
Is the Tenancy Tribunal still operating during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yes, the Tenancy Tribunal is operating and is trying to deal with as many cases as possible.
From 25 May the Tribunal has been holding face to face hearings, as well as some additional hearings by teleconference.
For six months from 26 March 2020, the Tenancy Tribunal has the power to hold hearings “on the papers” if necessary. This is where the two sides aren’t present and the Tribunal decides the case simply on the basis of the written documents the two sides have given the Tribunal.
Can I stop paying my mortgage for a while during the COVID-19 pandemic?
From 27 March 2020, New Zealand’s retail banks have been allowing residential mortgage customers who are financially affected by COVID-19 to pause their repayments for up to six months. During the pause you won’t have to make principal and interest payments on your home loan. This is called the mortgage repayment deferral scheme.
If you’re thinking of applying to your bank for this, be aware that it is only a deferral, meaning that you’re just putting off the payments for a while. Interest on these loans will still keep building up while you’re not paying. The principal amount of the loan will also increase because deferred interest will be added to it. For this reason, it may be sensible to use a deferral only as a last resort and only after serious financial hardship like losing your job.
You don’t have to defer payments for the full six months. You can ask for a deferral for any length of time up to six months.
There is an application process where the bank assesses the suitability of each borrower who is asking for a deferral. Banks will have different approaches to how they manage the process for borrowers to opt into a mortgage deferral. Those details, including the qualifying criteria, will be available on the individual bank websites.
Contact your bank for further details about the scheme. Most of the larger retail banks have full information about it on their websites.