Our Experts Answer:
Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act), landlords have an obligation to ensure the premises are maintained in a reasonable state of repair and comply with all the relevant health, safety, and building regulations. Where necessary maintenance work is required to be carried out, and the work is of such an extent that the tenants are unable to occupy the premises during that time, unless an agreement is reached between both parties which agrees otherwise (e.g. the landlord has suitable alternative accommodation the tenant can move into while the repairs are carried out), generally the tenant will not be expected to pay rent while they are not residing in the property (regardless of whether it is a fixed term tenancy or a periodic tenancy). Landlords and tenants in this situation should discuss the matter with their insurer to determine what their respective policies cover. It is also important to note that the Act does not outline the notice requirements where a landlord requires a tenant to vacate the premises for a time in order to carry out repairs. Additionally, it does not specify who is responsible for finding alternative accommodation for tenants, if they are required to vacate the premises. It was not anticipated that the Act would be required to apply to the type of situations currently being experienced in Christchurch. Therefore, in order to resolve any tenancy issues which emerge, parties are encouraged to discuss their situation with each other with a view to reaching an agreement suitable to both parties. In the event that an agreement cannot be reached, either party may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a decision on the matter. To discuss your situation further, you can visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Building and Housing Group’s website at www.dbh.govt.nz, or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).