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COVID-19: Rent Increase Freeze And More Protection For Tenants

· Immediate freeze on rent increases

· Tenancies will not be terminated during the lock-down period, unless the parties agree, or in limited circumstances

· Tenants who had previously given notice can stay in their if they need to stay in the tenancy during the lock-down period

· Tenants will still be able to terminate their tenancy as normal, if they wish

The Government is supporting New Zealanders to stay in their rental properties with a six month freeze on residential rent increases and increased protection from having their tenancies terminated, says the Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods.

“These changes will ensure that people can stay in their homes during this challenging time. This enables families and individuals to self-isolate, to stay home and maintain physical distancing, supporting the public health of all New Zealanders.

“It also means that in the short term, families and individuals who are tenants do not lose their home due to a drop in income related to job losses through Covid-19.

Sustaining tenants in their current homes will help prevent further pressure on our welfare system at this time,” Dr Woods said.

Minister Woods is making it clear that tenants have obligations as well.

“It is not acceptable for tenants to abuse the current situation by refusing to pay rent when they have the capacity to do so, causing significant property damage, or significant anti-social behaviour. Tenants are still fully liable for their rent payments and any damage as we ensure that Landlords do not increase the burden on tenants.”

“The measures we have proposed try to balance protection of the interests of tenants, landlords, and the wider community during this unprecedented time.”

“The rent increase freeze will protect tenants from additional financial hardship at a time when they are more likely to already be facing financial stress. Increases in rent are now prohibited under any circumstances, for the period of the legislative amendments. However, tenants still must pay their rent.”

“Landlords also need to be aware that breaching rent increase provisions or tenancy termination provisions under these new rules, constitutes an unlawful act, with exemplary damages of up to $6,500 payable in each case,” Megan Woods said.

Tenancy termination measures apply for three months, and this may be extended if necessary.

Importantly, where a tenant has symptoms of Covid-19, or is confirmed as positive, this is not grounds for a landlord to terminate a tenancy. Nor is a tenant required to notify their landlord if they test positive for Covid-19. However, we encourage tenants to advise the landlord, if the landlord needs to attend the property while the tenant is self-isolating, for example, if the landlord needs to undertake urgent repairs at the property.

“In these unprecedented times, we encourage landlords to talk to their tenants, work together and take care of each other wherever possible. Parties should try to come to an arrangement that suits them both. We need to work together and help each other to fight Covid-19,” Megan Woods said.

If you need financial assistance or emergency accommodation, you should talk to Work and Income: www.workandincome.govt.nz/providers/housing-providers/emergency-housing/index.html

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