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Navigating Tenant Divorce: Advice for Landlords

15 December 2022

As a landlord, you may encounter a situation where your tenants are going through a divorce. This can present several complications for you as the property owner, including potential disputes over rent payments or damage to the property. Therefore, it's important to understand your rights as a landlord in these situations and minimise disruption to the tenancy.

When dealing with tenants going through a divorce, it's important to communicate openly and clearly with both parties. As a landlord, you can remind both tenants of their responsibilities under the current tenancy agreement and the RTA but also show empathy and understanding to help ease the stress and uncertainty that your tenants may be experiencing.

Disputes over rent

One potential complication of tenants getting divorced is disputes over rent payments. To help, you may decide to offer flexible payment plan options to help them manage their finances short term. But it's important to remember that both tenants are jointly and severally liable for rent. In the event of disagreements, it's crucial to remain calm and professional. This can help to diffuse any tensions and prevent the situation from escalating. If things turn sour, as a landlord, you could legally take action against both tenants by taking them to the Tenancy Tribunal over unpaid rent.

Learn more about Rent arrears: how to solve problems

Tenant changes mid-tenancy

One of the tenants may also ask to move out and be taken off the agreement mid-tenancy. If one tenant moves out and the other is unable to afford the full rent, you may be faced with the challenge of finding a new tenant to replace the one who has left or agreeing to end the existing tenancy by mutual consent and advertising your property again.

You may want to refer to our guide on How to handle a change of tenants during the tenancy to learn the options available to you.

The tenants may choose to transfer their tenancy to someone else. A landlord is legally required to consider all assignment requests and cannot unreasonably turn them down. If the tenant's agreement is being transferred to the new tenant, the fixed-term tenancy does not expire, but the existing agreement continues.

If the divorce results in one or both of the tenants moving out, landlords will need to find a new tenant to fill the vacancy. Remember that finding a new tenant can take time, so start advertising the property as soon as possible, be patient and persistent. Don't rush to just find someone to fill the vacancy as this may cost you more in the end. Be flexible with viewing times and with the right approach, you can quickly fill the vacancy and avoid losing income.

Terminating a tenancy early can be costly. If the tenants are currently on a fixed-term agreement. The tenants may have to pay some money to the landlord to compensate for their losses as long as these fees are actual and reasonable.

Learn more about costs you can charge tenants associated with terminating a tenancy early

Dealing with tenants getting divorced can be a challenging situation for landlords. However, by understanding your rights, protecting your interests, and offering support and guidance to your tenants, you can help find a fair and mutually beneficial resolution for all parties involved.

We recommend you always seek independent tax advice regarding financial matters. 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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