My one-bedroom apartment in Auckland has been co-leased to a couple for the past two years. Over the weekend, I received an email from my tenant who disclosed her partner was domestically abusing her. Previous incidents have resulted in police checks, however, no charges have been made. While she has a new tenancy lined up and somewhere safe to stay in the interim, she is unable to finance this move and pay out the 28-day notice period at the same time. She is also concerned about how her partner will react if he finds out she is leaving and wishes to do so without disclosing it. She has always been a trustworthy tenant and my priority is ensuring her safety. What are her rights and what are my responsibilities as a landlord in this situation?
Under New Zealand regulations for residential tenancies, any tenant who experiences domestic violence in their home is entitled to remove themselves from the tenancy. The only requirement is a 2-day written notice provided to the landlord using an approved withdrawal form from tenancy.govt.nz. Some form of evidence needs to be supplied alongside this. While evidence can include things such as Police Safety Orders and charging documents issued during the tenancy, tenants who cannot provide documents from the police can use a statutory declaration or a supporting written statement from a prescribed person. The latter can be completed in the last section of the approved tenancy withdrawal form.
As her landlord, you can act as a prescribed person on your tenant's behalf. Other prescribed people could include the likes of a registered medical practitioner or the tenant’s employer. The full list of prescribed people can be found on the official tenancy services website. In the absence of police-backed evidence, to remove her from the situation as fast as possible, the quickest path is to make a written statement.
When your tenant hands her notice in she will not be responsible for paying rent after the 2-day notice period. While she does not need to advise her partner she is doing this or inform him when she leaves, she must provide him with a notice of the withdrawal no later than 2 days after vacating the tenancy. This is because he will remain legally bound to the tenancy agreement. She does not need to provide this notice to him in person, nor does she need to share evidence of violence when she makes it. The notice of withdrawal form can also be found on tenancy.govt.nz.
Please be aware that following a withdrawal due to domestic violence, while the remaining tenants are still liable for rent, the amount they must pay is then reduced for 14 days after the notice is handed in. To determine the correct rent to request during this period, landlords need to use the formula in the Residential Tenancies Act 1968 under 56b. To check this formula or for more information surrounding this process, you can visit tenancy.govt.nz. Alternatively, Hammond & Co can assist you in this process. We are experts in all property management matters - when you join our portfolio you can rest assured your property and tenants are in the best possible hands.