It seems that moving rental properties is not prohibited under the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Amendment Act, which is the new law passed Wednesday 25 March that amends the Residential Tenancies Act.
However, during the Alert Level 4 lockdown period, any moves between properties should only occur in very extreme circumstances and extreme care must be taken not to violate any Alert Level 4 rules.
That’s because the Alert Level 4 rules are designed to reduce movement between properties wherever possible for the next four weeks.
Tenancy Services information and education manager Jennifer Sykes says the ability for landlords and property managers to organise a move into a new renal property while under Alert Level 4 is extremely limited.
“This would be very rare and reserved for only very exceptional circumstances and when the tenant would otherwise have nowhere else to live.”
Such circumstances might include a New Zealander returning to the country who needs to begin a new tenancy; family violence creating an essential need to move; or a tenants’ current rental property becoming uninhabitable due to something like a catastrophic plumbing leak.
But if parties have to move in extreme circumstances, then they must exercise extreme caution, follow Ministry of Health guidelines and follow the Alert System when moving, Sykes says.
“If parties cannot work together to plan a move within the rules set by the Alert System, then the move must not take place.”
Tenancy Services guidance on how any moves should be done is as follows:
• If parties need to sign a tenancy agreement, this should be done digitally.
• If keys need to be transferred, then extreme care must be taken. Remember landlords and property managers are not classified as an essential service so they must have the keys available to them at their home. That means the tenant would have to pick up the keys up in their own vehicle and then go straight to the new premises. Physical distancing must be maintained and keys should be sanitised.
• Tenants can only move in a private vehicle and only with members of their own household. They cannot hire a moving service during this time.
The Alert Level 4 lockdown is currently planned for four weeks but, at the end of that time, if New Zealand returns to Alert Level 3, the advice remains similar.
Sykes says moving properties at Level 3 can only occur in very exceptional circumstances and all parties must take extreme care.
The changes to termination provisions in the new legislation (which covers both Alert Levels 4 and 3) will be in place for three months, at which point the Government will consider whether they need to be extended.
The new legislation also introduced a freeze on rent increases and additional protections for tenants.
But Sykes says tenants still need to pay rent during this time and could have their tenancy terminated by the Tenancy Tribunal if they get behind in their rent by 60 days or more, or for other limited reasons, during the three-month period.
“Landlords and tenants should talk to each other and work together to come to an arrangement that suits them both in these unprecedented and difficult times.”
Also, tenants struggling to meet their rent payments should contact Work and Income to find out what options are available to them, she adds.
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