The Government imposed a 6-month freeze on residential rent increases on 25 March, and increased protection against terminating tenancies.
Below is a checklist of measures taking effect under the freeze plus, at the foot, links to various lockdown actions the Government has announced.
Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods made 6 key points in her statement on the freeze:
- 6-month freeze on rent increases, starting immediately
- Tenants must still pay their rent
- Tenancies won’t be terminated during the lockdown period unless the parties agree, or in limited circumstances
- Tenants who had previously given notice can stay in their tenancy if they need to during the lockdown period
- Tenants will still be able to terminate their tenancy as normal, if they wish
- Tenants have obligations as well.
“This enables families & individuals to self-isolate, to stay home & maintain physical distancing, supporting the public health of all New Zealanders.
“It also means that in the short term, families & individuals who are tenants do not lose their home due to a drop in income related to job losses through Covid-19.
“Sustaining tenants in their current homes will help prevent further pressure on our welfare system at this time.”
On tenant obligations, Dr Woods said:
“It is not acceptable for tenants to abuse the current situation by refusing to pay rent when they have the capacity to do so, causing significant property damage, or significant anti-social behaviour. Tenants are still fully liable for their rent payments & any damage as we ensure that landlords do not increase the burden on tenants.
“The rent increase freeze will protect tenants from additional financial hardship at a time when they are more likely to already be facing financial stress. Increases in rent are now prohibited under any circumstances, for the period of the legislative amendments. However, tenants still must pay their rent.
“Landlords also need to be aware that breaching rent increase provisions or tenancy termination provisions under these new rules constitutes an unlawful act, with exemplary damages of up to $6500 payable in each case.”
Tenancy termination measures apply for 3 months, and this may be extended if necessary.
“Where a tenant has symptoms of Covid-19, or is confirmed as positive, this is not grounds for a landlord to terminate a tenancy. Nor is a tenant required to notify their landlord if they test positive for Covid-19. However, we encourage tenants to advise the landlord, if the landlord needs to attend the property while the tenant is self-isolating – for example, if the landlord needs to undertake urgent repairs at the property.
“In these unprecedented times, we encourage landlords to talk to their tenants, work together & take care of each other wherever possible. Parties should try to come to an arrangement that suits them both. We need to work together and help each other to fight Covid-19.”
Rent increases: There is a freeze on rent increases. Regardless of when notice of a rent increase was provided, no increase is permitted if the effective date is after the date this law comes into effect.
End-of-tenancy/evictions: Moving house is unlikely to be considered ‘essential’ during the lockdown. Fixed-term & periodic tenancies will not end unless specific grounds apply (eg, the tenant wants the tenancy to end). Tenants cannot be evicted during the lockdown, except in very limited circumstances.
Buyers/sellers: The Law Society is recommending settlement dates are delayed as sellers will be unable to provide vacant possession, and buyers will be unable to move in.
Work & Income NZ (WINZ), for financial assistance or emergency accommodation
Government news releases
COVID-19: Rent increase freeze and more protection for tenants
Urgent tax measures for economic recovery
Further support for farmers & growers as drought persists
COVID-19: Temporary changes to Education Act
Canada, Australia, Chile, Brunei and Myanmar join NZ and Singapore in committing to keeping supply & trade links open
24 March 2020: Mortgage holiday & business finance support schemes to cushion COVID impacts
17 March 2020: COVID-19: Economic response package
Attribution: Government release.