Residential Tenancy Act COVID19 Amendments

The Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson, announced on 23 March 2020 amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (“Act”). The announcements came in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s advice to the country to prepare to move to Alert Level 4 – Eliminate, by midnight Wednesday.

Broadly, Grant Robertson announced that there would be a freeze of rent increases and an extension of the limits to no-cause terminations. The purpose of the changes is “to sustain tenancies to the greatest extent possible and to protect tenants from becoming homeless at this time.”

Whether a landlord or tenant, the effects on you and your rental situation are far-reaching.

Section 60A(1) of the Act has the effect that no tenancy can be terminated unless both parties agree (and in some other limited circumstances). The limited circumstances are if the tenant:

  • Substantially damages, or threatens to substantially damage the premises
  • Assaults or threatens to assault the landlord, their family, or the neighbours
  • Abandons the property
  • Engages in antisocial behaviour (harassment; or any intentional act, if the act reasonably causes significant alarm, distress, or nuisance)
  • Is 60 days behind in rent, which is increased from 21 days (and the Tribunal will need to take into account fairness and whether the tenant is making reasonable efforts to pay the rent).

There is also a total ban on rent increases. Both these sets of changes will apply for an initial period of six months. They may still be extended however.

There are also some interesting specific sections that deal with situations when a tenant has symptoms of COVID19 and how an enforced self-isolation may affect the tenancy.

Finally, there is a tough deterrence for any breaches of the new set of temporary rules. Any breaches of the provisions will be unlawful acts and may attract penalties of up to $6,500.00.

If you need advice on your tenancy contact one of the Barter Law team for advice.

Chris Hallowes
[email protected]