New Zealand tenancy law has undergone drastic changes as a result of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020.

Many of the new rules introduced under this act are very tenant-friendly, so all tenants should be aware of the ways in which their rights have been strengthened.

We covered some of the key changes of interest to landlords in a previous article, so we’ll look at the changes from a tenant’s perspective in this article.

The first phase of the act, which came into effect on 12 August 2020, delivered one key change for tenants: landlords can only increase rent once every 12 months (as opposed to the 6-month limit previously enforced).

Phase two was rolled out on 11 February 2021 and contains the act’s most substantial changes. We’ll focus on these changes below.

Termination of tenancy

Under the old law, landlords were allowed to terminate a tenancy without cause. They are now obligated to provide a reason for termination, as prescribed by the new law.

Whether you’re renting under a periodic (i.e. month-to-month) or fixed-term tenancy, your landlord can only terminate the tenancy for one of the following reasons: 

  • The landlord (or a member of their family) requires the property as their “principal place of residence” within 90 days of the termination date.
  • The property is required for the occupation of employees or contractors.
  • The landlord intends to put the property on the market within 90 days of the termination date.
  • The property is to be converted into commercial premises.
  • Extensive alterations will be carried out on the property and it wouldn’t be practical for you to continue living there while the work is being done.
  • The property will be demolished.
  • The rent has been at least five working days late on three separate occasions within a 90-day period.
  • You’ve physically assaulted the landlord, the owner, a member of the landlord’s family or their agent.
  • You’ve engaged in anti-social behaviour on three separate occasions within a 90-day period.
  • The landlord would suffer greater hardship than you if the tenancy continued and because of that hardship it would be unreasonable to require the landlord to continue with the tenancy.

As you can see, landlords now require strict justification for terminating a tenancy. 

In contrast, tenants are fully entitled to terminate a fixed-term tenancy at the end of the term (without justification) simply by providing 28 days’ notice. 

Tenants can also terminate a periodic tenancy (i.e. a month-to-month tenancy) by giving 28 days’ notice at any time during the tenancy without providing a reason.

We’ve covered the differences between fixed-term and periodic tenancies (and the rules that apply to each type of tenancy) in a separate article here.  

Minor changes to the property

Significantly, tenants now have the right to make minor changes to the property. 

A minor change is any alteration that:

  • Doesn’t require regulatory consent.
  • Could easily be reversed, returning the property to essentially the same condition.
  • Wouldn’t compromise the structural integrity of the property.
  • Poses no more than a low risk of material damage to the property. 

Minor changes might include things like the installation of dishwashers, washing machines, curtains, TV aerials and shelving. 

It’s important to note that tenants still need to get consent from their landlord before undertaking any minor changes, but landlords legally can’t withhold consent for a minor change. 

Other considerations for tenants

  • Fixed-term tenancies will convert to periodic tenancies at the end of the term unless otherwise agreed.
  • Landlords aren’t allowed to advertise properties without a rental price or encourage tenants to bid against each other for higher rent. However, potential tenants can voluntarily offer higher rent to secure a property and landlords still have the right to accept these offers.
  • Landlords must agree to a tenant’s request to install fibre broadband if it can be done at no cost to them.
  • Landlords need to consider all requests to assign a tenancy (i.e. transfer the tenancy to someone else) and they can’t decline unreasonably.
  • Not providing a tenancy agreement in writing is now an unlawful act.

If you would like any legal advice in relation to your rights as a tenant, feel free to send me an email or give me a call on 09 489 9102.


Note: This post is brief and general in nature. You should not treat it as legal advice and should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this post. Armstrong Murray accepts no liability for losses suffered by any person or organisation who may rely directly or indirectly on this post.