The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a period of uncertainty in the rental market – and, in response, the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) clarified the insurance-related responsibilities of landlords in a statement released on Friday.
While most landlord policies will normally require landlords to notify tenants in writing when the rent is in arrears, the New Zealand government has made a temporary change to the law to limit tenancy terminations. The changes give increased protection for tenants having their tenancies terminated during the lockdown and will apply for at least three months (March26-June 26).
Under the temporary scheme, landlords cannot apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to end the tenancy for rent arrears unless the tenant is at least 60 days behind in rent. This is increased from the normal 21 days.
“Tenants are still liable for rent and you can ask tenants to pay what is due,” said the ICNZ. “You can also seek a monetary order from the Tribunal for rent arrears even though you can’t currently ask the Tribunal to terminate the tenancy if the rent is less than 60 days in arrears. Landlords should try to reach an agreement with their tenants before taking this step.”
The ICNZ clarified that other obligations under most policies have not changed, and landlords should still ensure that they are monitoring rent and providing appropriate notice to tenants when they are overdue – it recommends that notices be delivered by email or by posting in the mail.
The council also clarified that insurance cover may be “available if your tenant abandons the property without notice or if you have evicted the tenant due to non-payment of rent, but not if the tenant remains living in the home.”
“Different insurance companies have different policies, with different limits they will pay and conditions you must meet,” said the ICNZ. “If you are unsure about the requirements under your policy, we recommend you contact your insurer or insurance advisor.”