Ending a tenancy

Question from Cam updated on 27th July 2015:

I have a couple of questions. My partner (we're not married) is needing a place to live (currently we're doing the long distance thing). Can I terminate my tenants' lease so she has somewhere to live? Also, I'm having a lot of problems with tenants not paying on time, etc. The tenancy agreement states they have to be paid up by Thursday each week unless by prior arrangement. This hasn't been happening. Is there anything that I can do about it?

Our expert Alan Bruce responded:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act), in order to terminate the current tenancy agreement it will depend on the type of tenancy agreement you have in place with your current tenants.

If you have a fixed-term tenancy, an agreement with an agreed start and end date, the Act states you cannot give notice to end the agreement before the agreed end date. You could approach the current tenants to see if they want to end the agreement early (but they are under no obligation to do so), or you could apply to the Tenancy Tribunal seeking to have the fixed-term agreement ended early. Such an application would need to prove that an unforseen change in your circumstances has caused severe hardship.

If you have a periodic agreement, the Act states that the minimum period of notice required to be given is 90 days’ notice. This notice must be in writing, identify the premises to which it relates, and must specify the date by which the tenant must vacate the premises. In the case of a periodic tenancy, the Act also allows for a landlord to give not less than 42 days’ notice where the owner of the premises requires the premises as the principal place of residence for the owner or any member of that owner’s family, which is defined under section 2 of the Act. In this case, the letter to terminate the tenancy must also set out the reasons for termination. As the notice must be in writing, service times must be allowed for and a copy of the notice should be retained. Template letters for terminating a periodic tenancy agreement, and information regarding service times, can be found on our website: www.tenancy.govt.nz.

Where a tenant is not paying the rent as per the requirements of the tenancy agreement, or if the tenant is in rent arrears, landlords can serve tenants with 14 days’ written notice requiring the tenant to remedy the breach. If the tenant does not comply with the notice the landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to terminate the tenancy. A template for 14 days’ notice and information about service times can also be found on the Ministry’s website.

To discuss your situation further, or for information about applying to the Tenancy Tribunal, you can visit the Ministry’s website or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262) between 8.00am-5.30pm Monday to Friday to speak with a member of our Tenancy Advice team.

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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