Failure to vacate

Question from steph updated on 19th January 2018:

My tenants and I agreed on a date to end the tenancy early as they had failed to pay bond and had also stopped paying rent. One day before that agreed date they emailed me to say that they were extending their stay for another three weeks. They have still not paid any rent. I have not agreed to this new arrangement. What can I do?

Our expert Jennifer Sykes responded:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act, there are procedures that must be followed in order to end a tenancy agreement. However, a landlord and tenant can agree to end a tenancy agreement earlier by mutual consent. Tenants are required to leave the premises on the last day of the tenancy. They should also ensure that they have paid their rent up to that date, take their belongings with them, leave the premises reasonably clean and tidy, give the keys back, and leave anything that the landlord has provided them.

Failure to vacate the premises and return possession to the landlord on the agreed termination date is an unlawful act. If a tenant does not leave on the last day of the tenancy as agreed, the landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a ‘possession order’ - which legally returns the possession of the property to the landlord. A landlord may also seek compensation for any costs incurred as a result of the tenant not leaving, and any costs that are outstanding (e.g. unpaid rent). The landlord may also seek exemplary damages for the tenant’s unlawful act of not leaving. All of the tenant’s obligations under the tenancy agreement still continue if they remain in the property after the date they were due to leave.

For more on the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, go to or subscribe to our e-newsletter Landlord News .

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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