Christchurch rental "tricky one"

Melissa asks:
(updated on Friday, September 27th 2013)

We have had tenants in our three-bedroom house in Christchurch for seven years. The house has been damaged in the earthquake but is still very livable. We charge $300 per week (which is very reasonable). Recently the property was damaged in the floods, the floods were directly related to the earthquake as the house has somewhat sunk. We are waiting on the insurance company to repair the earthquake damage. The tenants are staying with friends so we can dry the place out and replace the carpets etc. A lot of their property still remains at the house and they are refusing to pay rent saying they don't have to if they are not living there.  It's a tricky one, can you help please? Are the tenants legally obligated to still be paying rent or should we be claiming against loss of rent?

Our Experts Answer:

Whilst the tenants are still liable for rent, they can apply under Section 59 of the Residential Tenancies Act to have the rent abated whilst the property is uninhabitable. They would more than likely be awarded the rent abatement whilst the property is being dried. Under normal circumstances a landlord would abate the rent whilst they have the necessary work done to make the property habitable. If you have a landlords extension policy, you may then be able to claim for the lost rent but this will depend on what cover your policy has.

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