Navigating level two: what landlords need to know

Monday 18 May 2020

With around 95% of businesses now back at work and children returning to schools today, New Zealand is now fully ensconced in alert level two. So what does that mean for residential landlords?

By Miriam Bell

Essentially, it means there are now far fewer restrictions - than there were at, first, level four and then level three  - around the business of owning a rental property.

But what does that “new normal” mean when it comes to the practicalities of running a rental property?

To help out, here’s Tenancy Services’ latest guidance for landlords…

It is now possible for tenants to move to a new rental property.

Removal companies can assist with moving - with some conditions: movers will have to comply with physical distancing, personal hygiene and surface cleaning guidance and should keep records for contact tracing purposes.

Friends and family can help tenants move. If they are well known to the tenant, physical distancing procedures are not required. However, it’s best that personal hygiene and surface cleaning procedures are still adhered to and that those moving record the names and contact details of people who helped.

In-person inspections of occupied or vacant rental properties can take place. Landlords and tenants should adhere to physical distancing, personal hygiene and surface cleaning guidance and should keep records for contact tracing purposes.

Tenants cannot unreasonably refuse an inspection – although for those who are considered at risk of severe illness from Covid-19 that could be reasonable grounds for refusal.

Rental property maintenance can now be undertaken. Physical distancing and hygiene guidance should be followed when inside homes, including surface cleaning on the area that is being worked on. Records should be kept for contact tracing

Open homes are permitted under level two with the tenant's consent as long as the guidance on physical distancing, personal hygiene and surface cleaning for level two is observed. Records should be kept for contact tracing purposes.

The Real Estate Authority has also developed level two guidance for in-person inspections for properties for sale and these guidelines should be applied to rental viewings. This guidance is available here

While New Zealand may now be at level three, landlords need to remember that the emergency rules which put a freeze on rent increases and limits on terminating tenants remain in force.

Introduced on March 25, the rent increase freeze applies for an initial period of six months from that date, while the limits on terminations will apply for an initial period of three months from that date.

At the end of both initial periods, the Government will evaluate whether they need to be extended.

Meanwhile, if landlords are having problems with tenants, which fit the specified provisions,  the Tenancy Tribunal continues to be in operation.

It is currently holding all hearings by teleconference. But from 25 May 2020, face-to-face hearings will recommence and additional hearings will also be conducted by teleconference. How this works in practice will be managed by the Tenancy Tribunal itself.

Further information on issues affecting landlords at the level two stage of the Covid-19 crisis can be found here:

Ministry of Housing & Urban Development – moving from level three to level two.

Tenancy Services: Covid-19 information.

Business.govt.nz – guidelines for businesses at level two. 

WorkSafe information on safe practices at level two. 

Insurance Council Covid-19 information. 

You can also read more landlords.co.nz articles on Covid-19 related issues here:

Real estate in level two.  

How to address tenant job loss in the age of coronavirus. 

Emergency rules boost tenant protections. 

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