Moving on tardy tenants

Question from Charles updated on 27th March 2017:

I am selling a house which has very uncooperative tennants in. I have given them a letter explaining the 42 days notice required - since then they have refused to pay any rent. They are now in arrears for $1600.00 and are eight weeks overdue. I know this is a breach of the contract - but they are refusing to go. What is the best process for moving them on? I have filed an application to the tenancy tribunal with the relevant details. (Last night) The house is due to be sold shortly as vacant.

Our expert Allan Galloway responded:

When a lawful notice to end a tenancy has been issued in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act or renting law), tenants must vacate the tenancy by the date specified on the notice. The exception would be if the tenants mutually agree with the landlord to leave earlier, or give their own notice to end the agreement themselves. A tenant commits an unlawful act if they do not vacate the tenancy upon termination and may be liable for exemplary damages up to $1,000, and may be ordered to pay compensation if the landlord seeks these orders as part of a Tenancy Tribunal application. Tenants also have an obligation to ensure their rent is paid as and when it is due up until the final day of the tenancy. For a periodic (open-ended) tenancy where a tenant is at least 21 days’ in arrears, or if they have not remedied the rent arrears after being given a 14 day notice to remedy, a landlord can file an application to the Tenancy Tribunal seeking to end the tenancy and get possession of the property, as well as an order for any outstanding rent arrears. You will need to seek independent advice, such as from a lawyer or real estate agent, about the sale and what may happen if the property is not vacant. For more on the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, go to or subscribe to our e-newsletter Landlord News at

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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