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Legal reasons to evict a tenant

16 May 2019

Photo: Orange Van Die-cast Model on Pavement, by Nubia Navarro

Most landlords want long-term tenants who pay rent on time and look after the property as if it were their own. Unfortunately, expectations don't always meet reality.

Evicting tenants must be one of the most unpleasant tasks a landlord has to do. No one wants to remove tenants from the property they've been renting for a while, but this may be the only way to stop unwanted behaviour, be it - problems with paying rent, threatening behaviour or serious breaches of the Tenancies Act.

There is often confusion between giving the notice to terminate a tenancy and eviction.

  • The notice period to give to end a tenancy agreement will depend on the type of agreement you have in place. The landlord always needs to provide a reason for termination and to follow the process correctly.

Learn more about giving the correct notice to end a tenancy

  • Evicting tenants involves obtaining a Mediated Order or an Order of the Tribunal to end the tenancy agreement.

It is important to remember that no landlord can personally evict tenants, without applying to the Tenancy Tribunal first to have the tenancy terminated. The only exemption to this rule is the landlords ability to end tenancies if physically assaulted by the tenant.

Clear communication is critical to make sure all parties to the tenancy are informed of any current issues and have done what they could to avoid escalating things to the Tenancy Tribunal.

Here are five of the most common, and legal reasons for the tenancy to be terminated by the Tenancy Tribunal.

1. Unpaid rent

Rent arrears make up 72 per cent of total applications to the Tenancy Tribunal. It is the most common breach of an agreement.

Issues with unpaid rent can cause major problems for landlords. But a few "one-off" missed payments are not going to provide sufficient grounds for termination and eviction.

If rent becomes overdue, the landlord can give the tenant a 14-day Notice to Remedy the rent arrears. The tenant will then have 14 days to pay the overdue rent. Any regular rent payments that fall due within this period must also be paid on time. If the tenant fails to do this, the landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal asking to end the tenancy as well as seek rent arrears repaid.

Learn more about serving notice to remedy

If the rent is more than 21 days in arrears, there is no need to serve a 14-day notice to remedy

A periodic tenancy can also be terminated if the tenants are more than 5 working days late paying rent on 3 separate occasions within 90-day period.

On each occasion, the landlord should issue a tenant a written notice and then make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal within 28-days of the third notice given.

2. Breaches of the Tenancies Act and Tenancy Agreements

Landlords have a right to expect tenants to follow the terms outlined in the Tenancies Act and not to breach the tenancy agreement they sign.

Some of these issues include allowing someone to live in a property when the tenancy agreement has a limit on the number of people who can live there, subletting without approval, keeping pets without permission or consistently disturbing neighbours with loud parties.

Most issues that arise between landlords and tenants are small enough and are dealt with quickly.

If a tenant violates the term in their tenancy agreement and doesn't resolve the problem promptly, the landlord can serve them with a 14-day notice to remedy the breach. If they fail to do so, the landlord can then apply to the Tenancy Tribunal and seek to get the tenancy terminated.

The breach by the tenant needs to serious enough to warrant eviction

3. A tenant stays in the property after the tenancy ends

Every tenancy ends at some point. But sometimes, a tenant refuses to move out of the property even after the lease expires. There could be different reasons for this, and it's always best to contact the tenant to understand the situation.

But if the tenancy has ended, the tenant no longer has a legal right to occupy the property. The landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for help and ask for an order that returns possession of the premises to the landlord. If the landlord suffers financial loss due to this situation, the Tribunal can also order the tenant to pay them compensation.

Learn more about resolving disputes and going to the Tenancy Tribunal

Something to remember. If the tenant stays at the property for more than 90 days after the tenancy ends, it can be seen as the landlord giving tenants a new periodic tenancy. If the landlord wants tenants to move out still, a new notice to end the tenancy has to be given.

4. Illegal activities

Some breaches are serious and can't be fixed or undone. These breaches involve illegal activities, for example, a tenant dealing drugs from anywhere on the property.

In this situation, the landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have tenants evicted.

5. Violence, threatening behaviour and serious damage to the property

Other things that will result in a landlord heading to the Tribunal to end a tenancy include substantial damage to the property, harassment and threatening behaviour to the landlord, their family, the agent, a neighbour or another tenant of the landlord.

The tenancy can be terminated with 14 days' written notice if the landlord, the agent, the property owner, or their family member has been physically assaulted by the tenant, and the Police have filed a charge against the tenant.

For more information, head to Tenancy Services website

The information contained in this article is exclusively for promotional purposes. It does not in any way constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as the basis for any legal action or contractual dealings. The information is not and does not attempt to be, a comprehensive account of the relevant law in New Zealand. If you require legal advice, you should seek independent legal counsel. does not accept any liability that may arise from the use of this information.

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What the community has to say
  • JP

    It's all very well but it is not that easy. Even trying to expedite it, it takes weeks before you get a hearing. Then the order (if given) takes effect after 48 hrs. Then you have to go to the Court to pay for a bailiff $200 (adjudicators think it is still $50) and that can take another week. The police will not come even if you trespass the tenant, as they regard it to be a domestic matter. Then the tenant can apply for a stay of the proceedings and apply for a rehearing. This then has to be scheduled some time in the future and so on...

  • LL

    If they are dealing drugs what sort of proof do you need?
    Does it have to be a police prosecution?
    I had tenants dealing drugs when I lived next door. All the neighbours rang the police. They did nothing. Waiting to bust a few dealers all at once. Do I have to film the dealing, record the number of vehicles and their plate numbers?????

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