Latest COVID-19 legal update


Commercial lease disputes

Many leases signed after 2012 contain a clause which permits the tenant to pay a reduced rent during period in which they are “unable to gain access to the premises to fully conduct the Tenant’s business.” The expression fully conduct is important where a business may be able to operate at COVID alert level three but not in its usual manner (such as only being able to deliver rather than have customers enter the premises). We have seen many tenants seek and obtain rent relief under this clause with the agreement of the landlord.

Where the parties cannot agree it is necessary for the dispute resolutions of the lease to apply. This usually means that the parties will need to try to resolve matters by mediation, and failing that, arbitration. Often the cost of these processes are uneconomic where a single month’s rent and outgoings is disputed – however, should the lockdown restrictions impact the tenant at COVID alert level three it may become more likely that formal processes are used. We suggest obtaining advice if you have any rent abatement issues.


Signing Wills in lockdown

The Wills Act has been modified so Wills can be signed more easily during lockdown. The change allows wills to be signed and witnessed using audio-visual links (for example, Zoom, Skype, Facetime etc):

  • A person who is signing on the will-maker’s behalf (pursuant to section 11(3)(b)), can sign in front of the will-maker by audio-visual link from another place.
  • Witnesses can witness the will-maker sign a copy of the document by audio-visual link.
  • Witnesses can sign a copy of the document in front of the will-maker by audio-visual link.
  • All people signing a copy of the will must make it clear on the copy that it is signed this way because an epidemic notice is in force.
  • Photographs or scans of the signed copies must be sent as soon as practical to a person who has been chosen to hold the document and all photographs or scans of signed copies of the will. If a lawyer or trust company has been involved in preparing and witnessing your will, they can hold the document and all photographs or scans of signed copies of the will.
  • The changes made are temporary and will expire after the Epidemic Notice is lifted, and the law will return to normal.


Property agreements

It remains possible to enter into agreement for land (which must always be in writing) electronically. We are able to prepare agreements and arrange for those to be signed by the parties using only a computer or even a smart-phone (no printer or scanner is required).


Property settlements

COVID alert level three means that furniture removers are able to operate and people are able to move house. It is therefore possible to settle any transactions which have been put on hold as a result of the lockdown once the alert level changes to three or below.

If you are impacted by the lockdown please get in touch with us so we can discuss your options. Bear in mind that many furniture moving companies have a significant backlog of moves and it will be necessary to co-ordinate with the other party.


Edmonds Judd at level 3

We have been able to work remotely during the lockdown and while at COVID alert level three clients are still not able to access our office some staff will be based in the office while other will continue to work from their homes. We are still able to deliver all services remotely – well everything except Christine’s famous coffee, but the best things are worth waiting for.

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