Affected by a natural disaster? Know your rights
Everything you need to know about your rights when it comes to rentals, retirement villages, EQCover, flights, accommodation, events and other bookings impacted by a natural disaster.
My rental has been damaged in the flood – what do I do?
Get in touch with your landlord. They are responsible for maintaining the property, which includes any damage caused by a natural disaster. The landlord is responsible for drying the property and paying tenants for any electricity it uses to do so.
Your landlord isn’t responsible for damage to your belongings caused by the flood. If you have contents insurance, contact your insurer.
My rental has been partially destroyed – do I have to keep paying rent?
If your rental has been partially destroyed, the rent should be reduced. Alternatively, you – or the landlord – can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to end the tenancy.
The tribunal will decide whether it’s unreasonable to require the landlord to reinstate the home (fix the property), or whether the tenant should continue to live at the property at a reduced rent.
My rental has been destroyed – do I have to keep paying rent?
If your rental is destroyed or seriously damaged, you can give notice to end your tenancy and stop paying rent at the end of the notice period.
The tenant must give two days’ notice, while the landlord needs to give seven days’ notice. This applies to periodic and fixed-term tenancies.
Temporary emergency housing after a natural disaster
Anyone who’s had to evacuate and needs accommodation should contact Auckland Emergency Management. AEM can be contacted by calling 0800 22 22 00.
For immediate accommodation during a state of emergency or natural disaster, contact your local Civil Defence team.
You can also register with the Temporary Accommodation Service for ongoing temporary accommodation after a natural disaster.
There is likely to be a cost for temporary accommodation, but financial assistance may be available via government agencies.
For tenancy disputes, get in touch with Tenancy Services.
Retirement village residents
Talk to the village operator
The village operator needs to communicate clearly with residents about the next steps if you need to evacuate the dwelling, said John Collyns, executive director of the Retirement Villages Association.
What if I have to be relocated?
Residents who need to be moved will be done so at the village operator’s cost. It could mean you’re moved to another unit in the same village, the same city or further afield, depending on availability.
What about my contents?
Residents should have their own contents insurance. Collyns said that some insurance policies have no excess because villages are generally considered safe places.
The village operator is responsible for the insurance obligations of the units and dwellings.
Will I still have to keep paying my weekly fee?
Collyns said that if you’ve been relocated to another apartment within the same village, you’ll likely continue paying the weekly fee.
If you’ve been relocated to another unit in a different village, it will be up to the two village operators to negotiate the rate.
What if my unit can’t be repaired?
The operator of the village must consult with you about the practicalities of repairing or replacing the unit. There are a few options to consider:
repair or replace the dwelling;
transfer to another dwelling in the village, or to a sister village (owned by the same operator);
terminate the occupation right agreement and leave the village.
While the operator has to consider your views during consultation, it’s not obliged to agree with you. Once consultation has finished, the operator must set out the terms of its decisions in writing and provide you with a copy.
My domestic flight was cancelled because of the flooding – can I get a refund?
If a flight is cancelled due to something within the airline’s control, you’re entitled to compensation for losses incurred up to 10 times the value of your ticket, under the Civil Aviation Act (CAA).
But it’s a different story if the flight’s cancelled because of something outside the airline’s control, such as major flooding. In these circumstances, the CAA doesn’t require the airline to refund your ticket or reimburse your costs.
Instead, your rights will depend on the type of fare you bought, the airline’s terms and conditions, and whether the airline is offering flexibility to passengers. If you bought a refundable fare, you’ll be entitled to a refund regardless of the reason for the cancellation or delay.
If you haven’t purchased a refundable fare, the airline will usually rebook you on another flight or offer you a credit.
Air New Zealand is offering flexibility on all flights to, through and from Auckland. For domestic travellers, you’ll be able to get a credit or defer your travel to a later date up to and including 6 February. Jetstar is offering passengers the ability to defer any flight up to and including 30 January for up to 14 days from your original travel date. Alternatively, you can get a credit.
What about my international flight?
When it comes to international flights, what you’re entitled to will depend on which country you’re in, where you’re going and the airline you’re flying with.
Generally, if your flight is cancelled due to something outside the airline’s control, it will rebook you onto the next available flight or provide a credit.
If you have travel insurance, you might be covered. Check your policy and talk to your insurer.
Air New Zealand is allowing international travellers with flights to, through and from Auckland to defer their travel to a later date up to and including 13 February. It is also offering credits to customers booked on international flights. If you have bought a fully refundable fare, you can ask for a refund.
I can’t make it to my Airbnb because of the flooding – can I cancel?
You can cancel your Airbnb if you’re unable to make it due to flooding. Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy will apply. This overrides the usual cancellation policy and means you will be entitled to a credit or refund.
What happens if an Airbnb host cancels before my check-in?
According to Airbnb’s terms and conditions, if a host cancels a reservation prior to check-in, you’ll automatically receive a full refund. Airbnb may also be able to help find alternative accommodation.
What about other hotels and booking websites? Can I cancel my rental car too?
Your right to cancel and your eligibility for a refund will depend on what’s in the terms and conditions. These should have been provided to you at the time you made your booking. The same goes for rental cars.
When checking the terms, keep an eye out for the words ‘cancellation’, ‘refund’ or ‘act of God’. An act of God, sometimes called ‘force majeure’, is when an event happens that is out of the control of both contracting parties and neither party is at fault. This includes natural disasters such as flooding. Contracts will usually have terms outlining your rights in the event of an act of God.
For Bookabach reservations, your cancellation policy will be unique to the accommodation. You should be able to find the policy on your confirmation email, or on the listing. If not, contact the host.
Cancellation fees may apply, but a trader can only charge a cancellation fee if the terms and conditions in place at the time you made your booking allow for this – and the terms are fair.
Companies can’t just charge whatever they like. A term allowing a company to charge a steep cancellation fee risks being unfair and breaching the Fair Trading Act.
If the contract allowed the company to cancel at any time without penalty but imposed a fee on the consumer for doing so, this also risks being unfair and breaching the Fair Trading Act.
A festival I was going to has been cancelled – am I entitled to a refund?
If a concert or festival is cancelled, you should get a refund from the ticket agent. Check with the agent about what’s happening.
Refunds will normally be made to the credit or debit card you used to purchase the tickets. If your card details have changed, you’ll need to provide the ticket agent with your updated details. You may be able to do this via its website.
What if the ticket seller isn’t doing anything?
If you haven’t heard from the ticket agent, it may be because it’s dealing with a large number of inquiries. However, if the agent has refused to do anything, and you paid by credit or debit card, you may be able to get a chargeback (a refund to your card). Contact your bank or card issuer about this.
I bought a ticket from a private seller. Will I still be able to get a refund?
If you’ve bought your ticket from a private seller, rather than the official ticket agent, getting a refund might be trickier.
Ticket agents may have terms and conditions stating that if they’re aware a ticket has been resold, they won’t honour it.
When an event is cancelled, the ticket agent would only be obliged to provide a refund to the original purchaser. You could ask this person for a refund, provided you’re able to contact them.
I had a dinner reservation, but I can’t get there because of flood damage. If I don't turn up, can it charge me?
If the flood prevented you from getting to the restaurant, your contract with the restaurant is likely to be ‘frustrated’. That means it was impossible for you to hold up your side of the deal and you shouldn’t be charged for not showing up.
If you can, let the restaurant know you’re not able to make it.
EQCover: What Toka Tū Ake covers for flood or storm damage
Your private insurer will manage any EQCover claims for land.
If your property is damaged in a storm or flood, EQCover will provide some cover for damage to the residential land.
Your private insurer will cover any damage to your home and contents, in line with your house and contents insurance policies.
How do I get EQCover?
You automatically have EQCover if you have private house insurance which includes fire insurance – which most policies do.
In the event of a natural disaster, contact your private insurer first. It will assess, manage and settle your Toka Tū Ake EQC and private insurance claims. This means you have one point of contact, rather than having to contact both Toka Tū Ake EQC and your insurer.
What does EQCover for land mean?
EQCover is provided for land under or within 8 metres of your home and certain outbuildings, such as a shed or garage. Land under or supporting your main accessway to the property is also covered, up to 60m from your home.
To qualify, land must be within the boundaries shown on your Record of Title. It may also include a right of way over a neighbouring property (if it’s a legal easement).
Some cover is also provided for bridges and culverts within the boundaries mentioned above, and some retaining walls that are necessary to support or protected the insured buildings or land areas.
EQCover will cover the cost to repair damage to insured land, or the value of the land – whichever is less. The maximum payout is capped at the land value.
If a landslip has also occurred, EQCover will cover the damage to your home and surrounding insured residential land, up to the applicable EQCover building and land caps.
Clearing silt and debris after a storm or flood
If silt or debris have been swept onto your land by wind or water, EQCover may cover the cost of the clean-up, up to the land cap. EQCover can cover the cost of removing debris from your insured land, as well as removing silt that is 15mm or deeper. Generally, silt that is less than 15mm deep will gradually disappear in the weeks following the floods and you may not need to remove it.
EQCover will also cover the cost to repair any land scour (evacuation of land caused by water flowing over it) from your insured land, up to the land cap.
What to do after a disaster
While making sure your family and friends are safe is the first step, the second step is to gather documentation to show the damage and call your insurer ASAP.
Take as many photos or videos as possible, especially before making any emergency repairs, moving items or throwing things out.
You’ll need to discuss any non-urgent repairs with your insurer first.
Once your claim is lodged, your insurer will discuss with you how best to evaluate the damage. Engineers or other experts may be brought in to do assessments and to estimate repair costs. For a land claim, it’s likely a registered valuer will visit.
When your claim is ready to be settled, your insurer will get in touch and explain the outcome and the settlement amount (minus any excess). Then you can get on with repairs.
What about cover for other natural disasters?
Toka Tū Ake EQC provides natural disaster insurance for homes for these natural disasters:
storm (land cover only);
flood (land cover only);
fire which occurs because of any of the above.
In the event of a natural disaster (excluding storms and floods), you have up to $150,000 (plus GST) worth of EQCover for damage to your home – this is commonly called the ‘EQCover building cap’.
While the cap was increased to $300k from 1 October 2022, this change could take up to 12 months as individual policies come up for renewal. The revised cap will apply to all new policies issued from October 2022.
If the damage to your home is over the cap, your private insurer should pay out – up to the claim limits of your policy. It’s likely EQCover and your private insurer will deduct an excess, too.