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COVID-19: New tenancies starting during the lockdown

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Residential Tenancies Act amendments have been introduced to clarify landlords' obligations through the COVID-19 and four-week lockdown period.

New rules affect all New Zealand landlords and tenants and apply to all residential tenancies.

So here are the most common questions we are asked about staring new tenancies to clarify the situation for everyone:

Can my tenants move-in during the lockdown?

No. Moving house is deemed ''non-essential'' during the four-week lockdown period.

But the paperwork has already been signed. Can they move-in?

The main message is for the tenants to stay in their current rental place if possible. You can negotiate a new move-in date at a later date when the Level 4 restrictions are downgraded to Level 3.

But they have given notice to their current landlord and have nowhere to go?

If your tenants have given the notice to leave their current property, they can now legally withdraw their notice and remain in their existing home. If their current landlord had already given a termination notice, it is of no effect.

My tenants managed to move-in before the lockdown, but we haven't finalised all the paperwork.

You can't interact with people outside of your self-isolation group. If you still need to sign a tenancy agreement, you should do so digitally.

Inspections will have to be postponed until a later date when the Level 4 restrictions are downgraded to Level 3.

Exceptional circumstances

Moves can occur in very limited circumstances while not violating any Alert Level rules or Ministry of Health guidelines.

If a tenant is returning home from overseas, given they have their own vehicle, can pick up keys contactlessly and go straight to the new premises, they are permitted to move in.

Tenants are not allowed to hire a moving service during this time or ask other people for assistance.

Tenants must not look for a new rental property during the lockdown. The move can only occur in very exceptional circumstances and when the tenant would otherwise have nowhere else to live.

Will my property remain vacant for 4 weeks? Can I look for tenants now?

Yes, you can still advertise, but there will be no open homes or private viewings during the four-week lockdown. You can use virtual tours, pre-recorded videos and photos to replace face-to-face viewings.

What the community has to say
  • KP

    Well I can tell you that in the apartment block I manage people are moving in (sometimes into an apartment with an existing tenant). Some of these people may have come from overseas. I have put a register at the doors but no one is using it. Also please change the name from Mortgage Holiday to Deferment (I forget the now accepted term, as holiday is giving the wrong message).

  • RP

    Hi Anna,
    Many thanks for posting this useful information. Please advise the current rules regarding returning Kiwis, who pass the airport screening process, have their own transport and wish to travel directly to their new rental property? Are these types of tenancies permitted?

  • CC

    The Ministry of Housing and Development told my potential tenants that they can move during lockdown, so they are. Conflicting advice.

  • AS

    @Kim @Christine The general advice from the Government, Police and the Real Estate Institute is to avoid moving house during the coronavirus lockdown. The rules put in place are designed to reduce movement between properties at this time where possible. 
There have been some cases reported where the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment appears to suggest that tenants can still move property. Obviously it’s confusing for everyone but also make it hard to comment as no information is available on the individual circumstances of these cases.

  • AS

    @Rajan I would recommend contacting Tenancy Services to clarify this. But on the surface, I would think it will be an acceptable arrangement.

  • NP

    AirBnb have a new listing for 'emergency' health worker accommodation. Basically, if you want to host someone working if the industry, they will waive the fees. But you still have to clean and disinfect, etc. Nice offer, but I don't think that this is really allowed under the lockdown

  • PL

    According to the the Q&A sheet the Minister put out, tenants can still move into a new rental as long they can do so while staying in their bubble – no outside help or assistance.

  • RW

    How about the bond lodge form? The tenants had paid their bond via internet transfer but the form hasn't been signed yet. I don't think they know how to do e-signature. Is it okay to postpone lodge the bond?

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