The unprecedented situation we are currently experiencing with COVID-19 is causing a great deal of uncertainty for residential tenants and landlords alike.  Many tenants are facing financial uncertainty and possible job loss, and worrying about how they will afford to keep paying their rent.

Talk to your landlord

It is very important that tenants who are struggling to pay their rent talk with their landlords openly and honestly, as soon as possible.  Everyone is affected by the pandemic and landlords are unlikely to be surprised that their tenants are facing financial hardship; they may be in a similar situation themselves. 

Tenants and landlords should agree on a payment plan or other suitable arrangement, and record it in writing.  It is not sufficient protection for either party to just agree on something verbally, but a simple email trail between the parties is better than nothing if you if you cannot get a more formal document in place right away.  Tenancy Services offers a “fast track resolution” process through which tenants and landlords can formally record agreements like this (https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/disputes/fasttrack-resolution/).

If using a property manager / landlord’s agent

It is important that property managers / landlord’s agents act on the landlord’s instructions as the person you have entered into the tenancy agreement with.

If you deal with a property manager or landlord’s agent about your lease rather than the landlord directly, you must ensure that they are actually corresponding with the landlord on your behalf.   If you have any concerns that they may not be taking your requests to the landlord, you should contact the landlord directly.  Your legal advisor and/or Tenancy Services can help you with this if you believe the property manager / landlord’s agent is withholding information from the landlord. 

Tenancy law changes

The Government has introduced law changes to help residential tenants, which took effect on 26 March.  You can find more about these on the Tenancy Services website (https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/about-tenancy-services/news/coronavirus-covid-19-what-landlords-and-tenants-need-to-know/#law-changes).  Importantly these changes mean that rent cannot be increased for six months, and tenancies cannot be terminated during the lockdown period except in limited circumstances. 

Although these law changes limit when tenancies can be terminated, tenants are still liable for rent.  Landlords can ask the Tenancy Tribunal to make a monetary order for rent arrears, and if rent is more than 60 days in arrears the Tribunal may order that a tenancy be terminated.

Government’s COVID-19 financial support

If you are facing the prospect of not being able to pay your rent, look into the Government’s COVID-19 financial support package.  If you are an employer, contractor, sole trader, or self-employed then you may qualify for the COVID-19 wage subsidy.  This subsidy is a lump sum payment designed to help you pay your staff (or yourself if you are self-employed or a contractor) over the next few months.  The Work and Income website (https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/products/a-z-benefits/covid-19-support.html#null) has detailed information about what is available and how to apply. 

Talk with your legal advisor

Many legal advisors are working from home and able to support clients remotely.  If you are a tenant having problems with your tenancy, your legal advisor will be able to give you advice that best suits your situation.  You can talk with them about your budget to agree a reasonable fee that you can afford while still getting the necessary advice. 




Louisa Gommans
Senior Solicitor