Earthquake exposes grey area in tenancy laws

7:52 pm on 29 June 2011

The Department of Building and Housing says the Canterbury earthquake has highlighted a grey area in tenancy laws.

However, the Minister of Housing Phil Heatley, says he's not planning to make any changes.

The department's deputy chief executive, Maria Robertson, told the Christchurch Housing Forum the Residential Tenancy Act is not designed to deal with the problems created by the earthquake.

Ms Robertson says, under the act, a fixed-term tenancy can be broken if a house is deemed uninhabitable, but not the land.

She says this is causing great confusion for red zone residents, with more than 4000 tenants contacting the department for advice.

Mr Heatley says he recognises there is a grey area in the Act, but doesn't think it's necessary to make legislative changes based on one event, such as the Christchurch earthquake.

The department is encouraging tenants and landlords to try to mediate themselves, to avoid lengthy delays.

Ms Robertson says the damaged courthouse is within the cordon and tribunal hearings are delayed for several months.