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Bill passed that can restrict tenancy terminations if people are required to stay at home due to a COVID-19 outbreak

30-Nov-2021 11:12:59

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On Thursday 28 October 2021, the Government passed legislation that can restrict tenancy terminations when people are required to stay at home due to public health measures. The restrictions on tenancy terminations will be able to be switched on and off by Ministerial Order (a ‘COVID-19 tenancies order’) in response to public health measures which generally restrict people from moving house (for example, Alert Level 4 restrictions).

These restrictions do not currently apply.

This continues to be a challenging time for many. Landlords and tenants are encouraged to talk to each other to resolve issues together.

Rules if the termination restrictions are activated:

  • Landlords will not be able to end tenancies, except in limited circumstances.
  • Most terminations will be postponed until at least 28 days after the restrictions lift.
  • Tenants will still be able to give notice to end their tenancy as usual but must consider if doing so would affect their ability to comply with COVID-19 public health requirements to stay at home.
  • If a tenant had previously served a notice to end the tenancy before the restrictions period or agreed with the landlord that the tenancy would end, but now wants to stay, they will be able to withdraw the notice or agreement by notifying the landlord in writing.
  • Tenants can terminate a tenancy by giving two days’ notice if they are unable to move in due to COVID-19 public health order restrictions. Any bond or rent in advance (relating to the period after the termination) that was paid must be returned to the prospective tenants.
  • If a new tenancy was due to begin but new tenants are not able to move in as the property is not vacant, then any agreement between prospective tenants and the landlord will be cancelled. Tenants and landlords should work together to make a plan for when restrictions lift. Any bond or rent in advance that was paid must be returned to the prospective tenants.
  • If fixed-term tenancies become periodic due to the restrictions, the landlord may end the tenancy by giving 28 days’ notice within 28 days of the restrictions lifting.
  • Landlords will still be able to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to terminate tenancies for limited reasons, for example where a tenant engages in significant anti-social behaviour or substantial property damage.
  • If a tenant had previously received a termination order from the Tenancy Tribunal before the restrictions period, and now wants to stay, they can withdraw the termination order by notifying the landlord in writing. If the tenant still wants to terminate the tenancy once the restrictions are lifted, they can do so by giving 14 days’ notice within 14 days of the restrictions lifting.
  • If a landlord had previously received a termination order from the Tenancy Tribunal before the restrictions period, which had not come into effect, the termination date is suspended until 14 days after the restrictions lift (unless the termination order was for one of the limited reasons allowed during the restrictions period or the tenant decides to end the tenancy on the original date).
  • If the Minister wants to lift restrictions, they must give seven days’ notice that they are going to lift the restrictions, so that tenants have time to make the necessary arrangements to move properties.

Source: Tenancy Services

These articles were featured in Property Management Focus, Issue 11 2021

Topics: Property Management, Tenants, COVID-19