There has been quite a lot of confusion about what tenants can and can’t do during alert level 4 lockdown and we want to ensure that all tenants have the answers they need to any questions they have about their tenancy during the Covid-19 crisis.

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions tenants can and can't do during this time.

The Covid-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Bill came into law on the 26 March, creating a number of changes that tenants need to be aware of.

Do I still have to pay rent during lockdown?

Yes rent still needs to be paid during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

However, if you are struggling to pay your rent as a direct result of your income being affected because of Covid-19 or you have lost your job and need support then talk to your property manager or landlord at your earliest opportunity, to work out a payment plan or to see what financial support is available to you.

Below are some subsidys available.

If you are self employed you can apply here for the government subsidy. Go here to apply.

Assistance with paying rent You may be eligible to apply for an accommodation supplement. Go here to apply.

Even if you aren’t currently receiving any WINZ benefits you may qualify for temporary additional support.

Banks are offering owners a repayment holiday to landlords does this mean I don’t have to pay my rent?

No it doesn’t.

Some banks are offering landlords that are facing financial challenges an option to put their mortgage payments on hold for a period of time. The word ‘holiday’ isn’t an accurate description of what is being offered.. What the holiday means is that the landlord may be able to defer their payments but ultimately the loan will have to be repaid. For landlords that take up this option what will happen is that interest will compound on any payments they didn’t make and when they restart making the payments their overall loan would have increased and the total cost to them will be higher.

So the word ‘holiday’ is actually a deferment of payments it doesn’t mean the landlord can have a holiday from making the payments and not pay it back.

(Please note: this should not be construed as either general or specific financial advice).

My landlord gave me notice that my rent was going to increase before lockdown happened, is this enforceable?

No it’s not.

The government has agreed to freeze all rent increases for a minimum of six months from 26 March 2020.

This means that if you were issued a rent increase notice prior to alert level 4 lockdown under the emergency legislation passed on 26 March 2020 your rent is frozen and the amount you are currently paying stays as it is until 26 September 2020 (and maybe longer if the government announces a change to this).

I can’t pay my rent, what can I do?

If you know you will be struggling to pay your rent as a direct result of being impacted financially because of Covid-19 contact your landlord/property manager as soon as possible. Before contacting them though have a look at your budget to see what you are able to pay and also look to see what support may be available.

Below are some subsidys available.

If you are self employed you can apply here for the government subsidy. Go here to apply.

Even if you aren’t currently receiving any WINZ benefits you may qualify for temporary additional support.

To see if you are eligible for temporary additional support by apply here

If you are not able to get assistance from WINZ to help pay your rent then discuss your situation with your landlord/property manager sooner rather than later. Find out what options would be available such as a rent holiday or a payment plan. It is always recommended that you pay as

much of your rent as you possibly can. If you can pay part of the rent each week then a payment plan may be able to be put in place to pay the rest once your income improves.

When requesting a rent decrease/deferment clearly outline the following:

  • What your current rent is
  • What you are proposing to pay
  • A start date and end date
  • Although not a requirement consider providing evidence to your landlord/property manager proving you are in financial hardship. This shows willing on your part and could well strengthen your request.
  • Request a written acknowledgment to review or extend the terms upon mutual agreement

Can my tenancy be terminated if I don’t pay my rent?

Under the Covid-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Bill which came into law on the 26 March your tenancy cannot be terminated by the Tenancy Tribunal unless you are at least 60 days behind in rent.

Should you find yourself in the Tenancy Tribunal because you are 60 days or more behind in rent the tribunal will look at your circumstances and will consider things such as

  • had you made an effort to meet your obligation and pay as much as rent as possible
  • had you been communicating with the landlord about your situation
  • was your arrears situation because your income was compromised due to Covid-19

We can’t stress enough the importance of staying in communication with your landlord/property manager and also make sure that any verbal conversations you have with them are followed up in writing so that you have a written record of anything that was discussed.

Can I move out of the property I’m in during Covid-19 lockdown 4?

Only if absolutely necessary.

You are encouraged to stay in the property that you were in the night before alert level Lockdown 4 commenced until the lockdown is lifted.

If you had given notice to leave then you are able to withdraw that notice. If your landlord has given you notice, that notice also needs to be withdrawn.

If you are currently on a fixed term tenancy which expires up till 26 June 2020 your tenancy will automatically become a periodic tenancy. What this means is that you can give 21 days notice to end your tenancy

If the landlord has given you notice to leave, that notice is not effective and needs to be withdrawn. If you are on a fixed-term tenancy which expires between 26 March 2020 and 26 June 2020 it will automatically become a periodic tenancy.

The only time you are able to move under alert Level 4 is:

  • If you can move yourselves using only the people in your bubble and limit physical contact. Moving companies and cleaning companies are not considered as being an essential service so you are not allowed to use them to assist you with your move.
  • If you are unsafe in your current living situation and need to move for your own safety
  • If you have just returned to New Zealand from overseas and have to move to a different property
  • If the property you are living in becomes uninhabitable e.g. a major plumbing issue. For more information about this please click here

Can I view a property during lockdown?

No you can’t.

During alert level 4 Lockdown property management is not considered an essential service which means that a landlord/property manager is unable to do viewings of any vacant properties.

However some companys are offering virtual walk through videos so it may be possible to do a ‘virtual’ viewing and have your questions answered. Renthub offer this service so please feel free to contact us if there is a property for rent that interests you.

Can I request for property maintenance to be completed during alert level 4 lockdown?

If the maintenance needed is classed as urgent or an emergency then yes it can be completed during lockdown. If the request is something that comes under essential services such as a plumbing leak, something electrical or locks on the house not working these can be attended to during lockdown.

If it’s not an essential repair then still report the issue to your landlord/property manager so that it can be attended to as soon as alert level 4 lockdown is lifted.


Resources & Links

Ministry of Housing & Urban Development: Here you can find links to the emergency legislation and an informative Q&A document. > Ministry of Housing & Urban Development

Tenancy Services: General information for both tenants and landlords e.g. emergency repairs and how to classify. >Tenancy Services

Covid 19 New Zealand Government: This is the go to site for any information or questions you may have about Covid-19.

Ministry of Health: The latest news and updates on the current Covid-19 situation in New Zealand. > Ministry of Health

Work and Income:

Resources for tenants to seek financial support and assistance.

If you are self employed you can apply here for the government subsidy. Go here to apply.

Assistance with paying rent. You may be eligible to apply for an accommodation supplement. Go here to apply.

Even if you aren’t currently receiving any WINZ benefits you may qualify for temporary additional support.

To see if you are eligible for temporary additional support by apply here

This information is correct at the time of writing (14 April 2020), however, may be subject to change. Tenants should seek further advice through the official sources listed above, or call your property manager for the latest updates.