As it is with businesses throughout the country, our Harcourts Canterbury offices are now closed as we all unite Against Covid-19.
Homes have always been at the centre of everything we do... though at the moment, we have a new definition for that, as our team members work from their own homes to provide you with all the service and support you might need.
We have prepared the below information to help answer some questions you may have in the current environment. Rest assured our sales consultants are still available to support you with your property needs via the phone, click here to contact your local office.
Covid-19 General Information
It is unsafe to hold open homes at the present time. We encourage everyone to view properties online until circumstances change.
All auctions are postponed. If you have your property listed for auction, you should have received a phone call from our sales consultant advising you of your options. If you wish to speak to someone, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.
These can still be confirmed during lockdown provided no travel/face-to-face meetings are required. If the condition(s) cannot be met during the Alert Level 4 period, then both the buyer and seller should take legal advice and either extend the condition until after the lockdown period or cancel the contract. The party’s lawyers will make appropriate amendments to the contract to facilitate this.
These are unable to take place in person during lockdown, however, if both parties agree, these could take place using video conferencing.
During Alert Level 4, vendors and purchasers will not be able to move in and out of their homes. Our advice is for you to speak with your lawyer if you have a settlement pending. The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand has taken advice from the Auckland District Law Society and their recommendation is for settlements to be deferred until Level 4 restrictions are lifted. This advice is also relevant to section sales where there is no movement between properties.
Covid-19: Residential Tenancies Act amendments
On the 23rd of March 2020 the Minister of Finance announced a freeze of rent increases and an extension of no-cause terminations. This has been applied as law through the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Amendment Act. These measures will support Kiwis to stay in their rental properties with a six-month freeze on residential rent increases and increased protection from having tenancies terminated.
What landlords and tenants need to know:
- There is now a freeze on rent increases
- A rent increase notice from a landlord will not have the effect of increasing a tenant’s rent, unless the rent increase has already taken effect
- Tenancies will not be terminated during the lock-down period, unless the parties agree, or unless limited and specific, justified, reasons apply. The Tenancy Tribunal will act as a check to ensure that the limited and specific termination grounds are being used lawfully
- Tenants will have the ability to revoke termination notices that they have already given, in case they need to stay in the tenancy during the lock- down period
- Maintenance requests essential to the health and safety of tenants only will be performed. Routine inspections are not taking place at this time however if there is an item of concern, tenants are encouraged to communicate with their property manager using videos and/or photos when possible
- Landlords with vacant properties can still tenant them out during level 4 however only if it is essential to do so. The Ministry of Health Guidelines and the Alert System level 4 must be adhered to, read more about alert levels here
- Tenants will still be able to terminate their tenancy as normal, however moving rental properties is not prohibited under the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Amendment Act. In extreme circumstances only such as; a New Zealander returning to the country, family violence or should a tenants’ current rental property may become uninhabitable e.g. a catastrophic plumbing leak. Tenants must exercise extreme caution and follow Ministry of Health guidelines as well as the Alert System if moving.
The timeframes for the new measures are:
- The measures took effect on Thursday 26th March 2020
- The rent freeze applies for an initial period of six months
- The protections against terminations will apply for an initial period of three months
- At the end of both initial periods, the Government will evaluate whether they need to be extended
Importantly, where a tenant has symptoms of COVID-19, or is confirmed as positive, this is not grounds for a landlord to terminate a tenancy. Nor is a tenant required to notify their landlord if they test positive for COVID-19. However, we encourage tenants to advise the landlord, if the landlord needs to attend the property while the tenant is self- isolating, for example, if the landlord needs to undertake urgent repairs at the property.
For full information on the new measures and what they mean for landlords and tenants, please visit:
- The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development COVID-19 information page
- Covid-19 Rent increase freeze announcement on Beehive.govt.nz
Source Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment