Renting During COVID-19

Renting During COVID-19

Last Update: 30/04/2019

For general information on COVID-19, visit the government’s central website.  

On this page:

What law changes have been announced as a result of COVID-19?

On 23 March 2020, the Government announced a freeze of rent increases and protections against tenancy terminations. This has been applied as law through the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Act, which came into effect on 26 March 2020.

More information about this announcement

Questions and answers about Alert Level 3 (Ministry of Housing and Urban Development)  

Questions and answers about Alert Level 4 (Ministry of Housing and Urban Development)  

What will change at Alert Level 3?

  • Tenants are allowed to move to a new house and moving companies will be able to help. Movers will have to adhere to physical distancing rules and should keep records for contact tracing purposes.
  • Routine inspections of rental properties cannot take place unless it is an emergency situation, such as a landlord needing to confirm that emergency maintenance is required.
  • Maintenance can only occur in emergencies or with tenant approval. This might include plumbers, electricians and tradespeople who can work on, and inside rental properties.
  • We recommend landlords arrange for professional services to clean or undertake maintenance of their vacant rental property.
  • Open homes where multiple people view a property cannot take place.
  • In-person viewings for rental properties can take place under Alert Level 3 with some restrictions. If the property is tenanted, landlords will need approval from the tenants and viewings should only occur when the tenants are not on the property.
  • During viewings, physical distance should be maintained and contact with surfaces kept at a minimum. Anything that is touched should be wiped with disinfectant. In-person viewings should be limited to two per day per property to minimise the impact on the tenants.
  • People should not be travelling between regions for the purpose of viewing a property.
  • Final inspections can take place if the tenants are not home and only with the tenant’s approval, or once the tenants have moved out. Tenants should take photos of the property’s condition before leaving.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has information on what it means for landlords and tenants to move from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3.  

More information on specific topics is available on the Tenancy Services website:

I/my tenants are having trouble paying rent, what are my options?

Due to loss of employment income, some tenants may experience issues paying their rent.

Tenants who can’t pay their rent should let their landlord know straight away. Be honest about the situation and see if you can agree on a payment plan. Landlords and tenants who reach an agreement can choose to have this formalised using the FastTrack resolution process, if they feel it’s necessary.

If you are likely to continue having trouble, think about other options:

  • financial support from the Government’s Wage Subsidy and Leave Payment scheme is available to eligible employers and workers
  • get in touch with budgeting services, Work and Income, or other agencies to see what support is available.

For three months from 26 March 2020, landlords can’t apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to end the tenancy for rent arrears unless the tenant is at least 60 days behind in rent. The Tribunal must consider whether it would be fair in the circumstances to terminate the tenancy, taking into account whether the tenant made reasonable efforts to pay rent.

Tenants are still liable for rent and landlords can ask tenants to pay what is due. Landlords can also seek a monetary order from the Tribunal for rent arrears even though they can’t currently ask the Tribunal to terminate the tenancy if the rent is less than 60 days in arrears.  Landlords should try to reach an agreement with their tenants before taking this step.

More information on rent arrears and overdue rent

Information on the Government’s COVID-19 wage subsidy and leave payment scheme  

Information on ending a tenancy

Information on support available from Work and Income NZ  

I am a landlord, can I still do maintenance or inspect my rental property?

Landlords must not visit their tenants or carry out in-person inspections during Alert Level 4. They can carry out a virtual inspection, with agreement from their tenants.

In-person routine inspections of rental properties cannot take place unless it is an emergency situation, such as a landlord needing to confirm that emergency maintenance is required.

For maintenance, at Alert Level 4 you can hire a tradesperson to carry out urgent repairs only. At Alert Level 3, maintenance can only occur in emergencies or with tenant approval. This might include plumbers, electricians and tradespeople who can work on, and inside rental properties.

Information on maintenance and inspections

I'm a tenant in self-isolation, who do I need to tell?

Tenants are under no obligation to tell their landlord if they are self-isolating or sick with COVID-19. While we are under Alert Level 4, landlords should not visit or enter the rental at all. If it is necessary to do urgent repairs at the property for essential services while the tenant is self-isolating, and a tradesperson needs to attend the property, we encourage tenants to advise the landlord or tradesperson that they are self-isolating.

Tenants should also make sure any other tenants or flatmates are aware of the situation and how it will work.

Follow the guidelines on the central government COVID-19 website.  

I’m due to move into a new rental property, but because of COVID-19, I’m not sure whether I still can. What are my options?

Under Alert Level 4, moving house can only occur in very limited circumstances and extreme care must be taken not to violate any Alert Level rules or Ministry of Health guidelines.

Examples where moves may be seen as essential include:

  • family violence may create an essential need to move
  • a tenant’s current rental property may become uninhabitable eg a catastrophic plumbing leak.

Under the new laws, if you have already given notice to leave your current rental property, you can withdraw that notice. If your landlord gave you notice to end your tenancy and this comes into effect after Thursday 26 March 2020, it is of no effect (providing you were living at the property on 26 March 2020). You should consider staying in your current rental property if possible.

On 3 April 2020, the Director General of Health issued a notice under Section 70 of the Health Act  , which provides further guidance on movement during Alert Level 4. Please read this notice before considering any moves while New Zealand is at Alert Level 4.

At Alert Level 3, which begins on 28 April 2020, tenants are allowed to move to a new property. Moving companies can help with the move. They need to meet physical distancing rules and keep records for contact tracing.

Find out more about moving house during COVID-19.

What should I do if I have already signed the lease on a new place but I can no longer move into it? Will I have to pay two sets of rent?

At Alert Level 3, which begins on 28 April 2020, tenants are allowed to move to a new property. Moving companies can help with the move. They need to meet physical distancing rules and keep records for contact tracing.

If you gave notice on your current tenancy and you now need to stay, you can withdraw your notice. If your landlord gave notice on your current place, that notice is no longer valid unless you both agree otherwise. This means that your current tenancy agreement is able to continue. 

If your new tenancy was to be a periodic tenancy, and you don’t want to move into it once we are at Alert Level 3, you can give 21 days’ written notice to end it. You may have to pay double rent during this time, but you should see if you can come to an arrangement with the landlord.

If your new tenancy was to be a fixed-term and you want to end it, you could try to come to an arrangement with the landlord to cancel it. We encourage landlords to be flexible during these difficult times.

If you can’t come to an agreement regarding how to end a fixed-term tenancy, you can apply to the Tribunal under the grounds of unforeseen hardship to reduce the term of the tenancy.

More information on ending a fixed-term tenancy on the grounds of unforeseen hardship.

I’m in a boarding house or share-house living arrangement – what does self-isolation mean for me?

Boarding house tenants and landlords need to follow the self-isolation guidelines  . If you live in a boarding house, you should pay extra attention to the information on using shared facilities on the Ministry of Health website  . Boarding house landlords should consider changing the house rules to include the self-isolation guidance. Boarding house tenants must comply with the house rules and this may help reinforce the self-isolation requirement. 
 
For all tenancies where a number of people are living at one address, if self-isolation is not possible tenants may be able to access the temporary accommodation service set up by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
 
This service can help those affected to find suitable temporary accommodation for self-isolation. After registering, you will be contacted by a temporary accommodation staff member who will assess your needs and work with you to help you find suitable temporary self-isolation accommodation.

To register your details, please call 0508 754 163 or visit the Temporary Accommodation Service website  .

I'm having difficulty with my landlord/tenant, what should I do?

Landlords and tenants should talk to each other, work together and take care of each other wherever possible. Try to come to an arrangement that suits everyone.

If you can’t reach an agreement you can apply for mediation through the Tenancy Tribunal.

More information on how the Tenancy Tribunal is operating during COVID-19.

Discrimination against prospective tenants or tenants is unlawful under tenancy law when it breaches the Human Rights Act. For example, it is unlawful to:

  • not grant a tenancy to a person for any of the prohibited grounds of discrimination, for example because of their race, nationality, or disability. Disability includes physical illness, or the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing illness. This includes COVID-19.
  • discriminate when deciding to continue, extend, renew, vary, or to end a tenancy.

More information on discrimination.

If you are in an accommodation arrangement that is not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act you can contact the Human Rights Commission   if you think you have been discriminated against or would like to find out more information.