Earth­quakes - pay & ten­ants


Un­ex­pected events, such as earth­quakes, have meant that many em­ploy­ers have not been able to open for busi­ness and/or em­ploy­ees have not been able to get to work.

If the in­ter­rup­tion is short, many em­ploy­ers will choose to con­tinue to pay em­ploy­ees to pre­serve good­will.

How­ever, whether or not you have to con­tinue to pay staff if your busi­ness is forced to shut tem­po­rar­ily through out­side cir­cum­stances de­pends on the terms of the em­ploy­ment agree­ment you have en­tered into.

If you want to be able to not pay work­ers then this needs to be specif­i­cally cov­ered in the agree­ment with each per­son. If your agree­ment does not pro­vide for this, and you uni­lat­er­ally cut wages, you could face claims for un­paid wages and penal­ties.

If the sit­u­a­tion is not cov­ered by the em­ploy­ment agree­ment, em­ploy­ees can­not be forced into any changes to their em­ploy­ment agree­ment made by the em­ployer.

Of course such changes may be bar­gained for in re­turn for a wage in­crease or other ben­e­fits the next time you ne­go­ti­ate your agree­ments. Even if you wanted to pro­tect staff good­will, could your busi­ness af­ford to keep pay­ing the wages if an earth­quake meant you were closed for days or weeks?

As a res­i­den­tial ten­ant, you are en­ti­tled to ask your land­lord to pro­vide you with in­for­ma­tion about the safety of the prop­erty you rent from them.

Your land­lord will be legally re­spon­si­ble if they fail to pro­vide you with this in­for­ma­tion and some­thing hap­pens to you or any­one else oc­cu­py­ing the prop­erty as a re­sult.

Your land­lord has an obli­ga­tion to en­sure that the prop­erty you rent from them is safe.

If your land­lord is aware of any is­sues, haz­ards or risks at the prop­erty, they must make sure you are no­ti­fied and that the sit­u­a­tion is reme­died as soon as pos­si­ble.

If you iden­tify any is­sues, haz­ards or risks your­self, you must no­tify your land­lord promptly so that they can get on to fix­ing the prob­lem.

De­pend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion, your land­lord might ask you to stay away from the prob­lem area, or even va­cate the prop­erty tem­po­rar­ily if the sit­u­a­tion is se­ri­ous enough.

If you have no­ticed any dam­age, such as cracks or move­ment in the build­ing struc­ture you should ad­vise your land­lord right away.

A proac­tive land­lord should visit their ren­tal prop­erty soon af­ter an earth­quake, to check on its con­di­tion and ask the ten­ant to

Your land­lord has an obli­ga­tion to en­sure that the prop­erty you rent from them is safe.

tell them about any is­sues they have spot­ted.

If your land­lord has not ar­ranged to in­spect your prop­erty and you would like them to, you can ask them to do so at a suit­able time.

Re­mem­ber that your land­lord must give you at least 48 hours’ no­tice of their in­ten­tion to in­spect the prop­erty, and at least 24 hours’ no­tice that they will be com­ing to main­tain or re­pair the prop­erty, ex­cept in an emer­gency where they are not re­quired to give you no­tice.

It is your land­lord’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to get pro­fes­sional ad­vice about the prop­erty, such as an en­gi­neer­ing as­sess­ment, to sat­isfy them­selves that it is safe to be lived in.

If your land­lord fails to tell you about the safety of the house you rent af­ter an earth­quake, whether or not you ask for that in­for­ma­tion, they will be li­able for any dam­age or harm to you or any other oc­cu­pants that oc­curs as a re­sult.

Col­umn cour­tesy of RAINEY COLLINS LAWYERS, phone 0800 733 484.

If you have a le­gal in­quiry you would like dis­cussed in this col­umn please email aknowsley@rain­ey­

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