Contract breach?

Question from Daniella updated on 4th May 2015:

I have a fixed term lease (one year), but due to earthquake repairs we have to leave the property for at least five weeks. As we would only move in for a month before the new lease starts, we don't want to pay the extra rent during January. We have found other accommodation because we are out of a flat for so long, and do not have a fixed re-entry date. Do we have any right to end the tenancy agreement due to the breeching in contract in kicking us out?

Our expert Alan Bruce responded:

The Ministry has prepared guidance for landlords and tenants who are in the situation you describe above. You can access the information on our website here: http://www.tenancy.govt.nz/canterbury-earthquake Tenants should discuss with the landlord the expected time-frame for the repairs (including determining and specifying a date they can move back in), and what conditions will apply while the tenant has temporarily vacated. Any agreement reached should be clearly recorded in writing. In the case of a fixed term tenancy, neither the landlord or tenant will be able to end the tenancy with notice unless mutually agreed to. If the tenancy has not been ended by notice or by mutual agreement, the tenancy will remain in place. Further information about terminating a tenancy can be viewed on our website at: http://www.tenancy.govt.nz/tenancy-az-n-q#n In Christchurch, temporary accommodation for people who are required to vacate their house while earthquake repairs are undertaken, and who intend to move back in once completed, is provided by the Canterbury Earthquake Temporary Accommodation Service (CETAS). CETAS can assist you if required in finding temporary accommodation while your property is being repaired. You can call the CETAS freephone number on 0800 673 227 during business hours or visit the CETAS website: http://www.quakeaccommodation.govt.nz/ To discuss your situation further, or for information about landlord and tenant rights and obligations, you can visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment’s website (www.tenancy.govt.nz), or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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