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COVID-19: Ban on rent increases and tenancy terminations

26 March 2020

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

More details have now become available on the rent increase freezes, and tenancy terminations bans. These measures have now become law through the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Amendment Act.

Rent increases

  • Landlords barred from increasing residential rents for the next six months effective 26th March 2020.
  • A rent-increase notice from a landlord will have NO effect unless the rent increase has already happened.
  • The rent freeze applies to boarding houses in the same way.

UPDATE: From 12 August 2020, rent increases are limited to once every 12 months. This is a change from once every 180 days (six months). There continues to be a freeze on rent increases, which means landlords cannot increase rent until after 25 September 2020. Landlords can now send noticed to increase rent as long as it takes effect AFTER 25th September.

Tenancy termination

  • The landlord can't terminate tenancies during the lock-down period unless both landlords and tenants agree, or in limited circumstances.
  • Limited circumstances include:
    • If tenants' rental payment were 60 days late (and the Tribunal determines that they didn't make reasonable endeavours to pay rent)
    • Significant property damage
    • Significant antisocial behaviour or threats/assaults towards the landlord
  • COVID-19 isn't grounds for a landlord to terminate a tenancy
  • If a landlord had already given a termination notice that will come into effect after 26th March 2020, this notice is of no effect.
  • The tenants can now choose to ignore previously given notice to end the tenancy and remain in the property while Alert level 4 is in place.
  • Fixed-term tenancies will now become periodic tenancies upon expiry unless the tenant gives notices or parties agree otherwise.
  • Tenants are still able to terminate tenancies as usual, although they’re being encouraged not to, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Tenants cannot be evicted because the landlord's family wish to move in.

The protections against terminations will apply for an initial period of three months but could be extended.

A failure to comply with the new law could see people fined up to $6,500 by the Tenancy Tribunal.

UPDATE: The above restrictions on tenancy terminations ended on 25 June 2020. From 26 June, landlords should give notice to terminate a tenancy under the standard Residential Tenancies Act 1986 provisions. Usual notice periods apply from the day a notice is given.

It's important to remember that tenants are still fully liable for their rent payments and any damage caused to the property. It is not acceptable for tenants to abuse the system by refusing to pay rent when they have the capacity to do so.


If a fixed-term lease comes up for renewal during the level 4 period, then a fixed term tenancy will automatically convert to a periodic tenancy.

In December 2021 NZ moved away from the alert level system to the COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic lights). Follow this link to the summary of real estate activities permitted under various traffic light settings

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What the community has to say
  • PL

    Protection for tenants.
    Suffering for rental property owners.

  • CW

    disappointing! why is it that tenants always have more rights than landlords?! why are landlords always painted as the big bad wolf? incredible!

  • KN

    How are rental property owners suffering? It should be this way! Far too many landlords have had an upper hand for too long. Tenants are being protected during this time!

  • NB

    Karley, you live in fantasyland.

  • SH

    Anyone know why the rent increase ban is 6 months and not 3 months or during Alert level 4?

  • AS

    @Shane I guess it allows for some time for the economy to recover from all this (start to)

  • SA

    Hoping tenants won’t miss use the special measures, making advantage of the situation and delay the rent payments.
    Landlords in essential services won’t be able to get a mortgage holiday and still have to make full mortgage payments.. councils won’t stop sending rates landlords are once again under immense pressure.

  • CP

    There is one positive in the changes for landlords in all the negative.

    For those that need to do changes for healthy homes as long as they are done before 17 March 2021 and less than $5000 each you can expense them instead of capitalize them which will improve cashflow.

    Allowing immediate low-value asset write offs.
    To encourage spending, the change will temporarily increase the threshold of the value of assets which can be deducted in the year the asset was purchased.
    The threshold will increase from $500 to $5,000 for assets purchased in the 12 months from 17 March 2020 (reducing to $1,000 from 17 March 2021.

  • JF

    Great information Celeste thank you!

  • AD

    We have a tenant that has been struggling to pay rent in full for the last month or so. She says her hours have been cut so I'm guessing she's going to get really behind but we can't do anything about it. She has a fixed tenancy to September 30th. If she gets to 60 days behind, we will apply for an eviction although normally, rent only needs to be 21 days in arrears.

  • AS

    @Angela, maybe suggest a payment plan, to get her through the next 4 weeks (with review ?), with the remaining amount to be paid at the later date. Looks like at the moment, you can take the case to the Tribunal but if they determine, she's doing everything she can in the current situation, you may not be able to terminate..

  • TT

    "Fixed-term tenancies will now become periodic tenancies upon expiry" - that means old tenants can decide not to move out after lockdown lifted but our new tenant has signed agreement and was scheduled to move in after lockdown period. The Landlord is in breach agreement with new tenants and the new TT stands ground to claim the cost of Airbnb or hotel and related moving cost against the LL...

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