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Giving notice

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Any notice to end a tenancy must:

be in writing

  • give the address of the tenancy
  • give the date when the tenancy is to end
  • set out the reasons for ending the tenancy (if less than 90 days’ notice is given)
  • be signed by the person giving the notice

Serving notices

Notice can be served by fax, email, post, giving the notice to the other party (either in person by placing it in the letterbox or attaching it to the door of the property in a prominent position).

The Residential Tenancies Act states that you must allow a certain amount of time for the other party to receive your notice:

  • In general, if the notice or document is personally served (i.e. handed to the tenant or landlord), it is served immediately.
  • If it is delivered to the premises to which any address for service relates, and either left in the letter box or attached to the door of the property in a prominent position, it is served 2 working days after the date on which it was delivered.
  • If it is properly addressed and posted to the address or the Post Office Box given as an address for service, it is deemed to have been served on the fourth working day after the date on which it was posted.
  • If it was transmitted to a fax number given as an additional address for service after 5pm, it is considered to have been served on the next working day after it was transmitted. If the fax was sent before 5pm it shall be deemed to be served on that day.
  • If it was emailed to an email address given as an additional address for service after 5pm, it is considered to have been served on the next working day after it was transmitted. If the email was sent before 5pm it shall be deemed to be served on that day.

These timeframes apply unless the person being served notice has evidence to the contrary – for example, the recipient provides evidence that the post was delayed or not received.

Note: The notice period does not commence until the day after the notice is deemed to be served. For example, if you have posted the notice to the other party the notice will be deemed to have been received by them on the fourth working day after you posted it. Your notice period will then start on the next day, the fifth day.

Notice to terminate a tenancy can be given on any day of any week to end on any day of any week regardless of when rent is normally paid, or the period that it usually covers.

Special rules apply when giving notice to terminate a tenancy in boarding house tenancies.  

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Notice for a periodic tenancy

In general, a tenant must give a landlord at least 21 days’ written notice when they want to end the tenancy. A landlord may allow a tenant to give shorter notice. This should be stated in writing.

A landlord must generally give a tenant at least 3 months’ (90 days’) written notice to end the tenancy. However, there are some circumstances where the landlord is not required to give as long a notice period.

If the owner of the property or a member of the owner’s family requires the property to live in, or there is an agreement to sell and the buyer wants the property empty, then the notice period is 42 days.

If a landlord regularly uses, or has purchased, the property for their employees to live in, 42 days’ notice applies. However, the tenancy agreement must clearly state that the property is generally used for this purpose.

If 42 days’ notice is given, the landlord must include the reason in the notice to end the tenancy. 

If a landlord gives a tenant notice to end the tenancy, then the tenant is entitled to continue possession of the property until the termination date. However, if the tenant chooses to move out sooner than that date, then they must still give 21 days’ written notice to the landlord. Sometimes a landlord will not mind the tenant leaving earlier but this must be agreed between them in writing.

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Notice for a fixed-term tenancy

A fixed-term tenancy automatically becomes a periodic tenancy on expiry of the fixed term, unless either party gives notice they do not want that to happen. This notice needs to be given no sooner than 90 days before the end of the tenancy and no later than 21 days before the end of the tenancy.

If there is a right to renew or extend the tenancy in the tenancy agreement, and the tenant wishes to renew or extend the tenancy, then the tenant must write to the landlord advising them at least 21 days before the fixed-term tenancy is due to end.

A fixed-term tenancy cannot be ended before the term is complete without the agreement of both parties, or a Tenancy Tribunal order.

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Retaliatory notice

Retaliatory notice does not apply to fixed-term tenancies as there is no legal obligation on the landlord to agree to the tenancy being renewed or continuing past the end of the fixed-term.

If a tenant is given notice to end the tenancy because they have approached the landlord or the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment about a problem, they may make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal to ask for an order to say the notice will have no effect. If the Tribunal agrees the notice to end the tenancy was given because the tenant used or asked for their rights under the law (i.e. that the notice was retaliatory), then the Tribunal will make an order saying that the notice has no effect.

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