Earthquake damage and tenancy 

What does it mean if the building I live in has been “yellow stickered”?

The Wellington and Christchurch city councils used yellow stickers as a way of telling people that certain buildings are earthquake prone, prior to 1 July 2017.

When the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 took effect on 1 July 2017, a set of ratings which applied across New Zealand replaced the older “sticker” notices.

Under this Act, an earthquake prone building is one which would collapse (wholly or partially) in a moderate earthquake, causing injury, death or damage to other property. In practice this means the building meets less than 34 percent of the building standard. If a building has been determined to be earthquake prone it must be strengthened within a timeframe ranging from 15 to 35 years (depending on which city the building is in). 

More about this is on the Building Performance website, which also has information for building owners.

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The building I live in has been assessed as being earthquake prone – do I have the right to break my lease?

You can break your lease if your landlord agrees to it.

If your landlord doesn’t agree to an early end to your fixed tenancy, then you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to end the tenancy on the grounds that an unforeseen change in circumstances is causing too much hardship for the tenancy to continue, or on the grounds that the building has become un-tenantable due to earthquake damage.

Note that if the building is earthquake prone but hasn’t suffered serious damage then it is probably tenantable. 

See our other information about ending a tenancy.

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How do I get to see an engineer’s earthquake assessment on the building I live in?

It’s worth asking your landlord for a copy of the assessment, if an assessment has been completed. However the landlord is not legally obliged to provide you with this information.

If the building has been determined to be earthquake prone then it will be included on a national register of earthquake prone buildings and the building owner is required to display a notice on the building.