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COVID-19 Coronavirus and the Law: what you need to know

March 19, 2020

We hope you and yours are faring well amid the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak. We remain open as normal, and operating in accordance with Ministry of Health recommendations. (You’ll have seen a lot of messages like this recently, so we’ve tucked the key details about our operations at the bottom of this.)

We know there’ll be a lot on your minds at the moment, but based on our experience of past crises, and on questions from our clients, we think it’s worth addressing a few issues about COVID-19 Coronavirus and the law, and what the legal implications of Coronavirus might be.

Coronavirus and Personal Legal Arrangements

We’ve been fortunate COVID-19 has spread as little as it has in New Zealand so far. But these kinds of events always remind us of the worst-case scenarios.

Now and always it’s important to have all your personal legal affairs in order. That means:

These are the kind of matters that you’ll need to address at some point. Now’s a good time to get it all out of the way. We’ll take you through a simple legal health check to help you make sure everything is in order.

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Coronavirus and Business Contracts

As businesses in New Zealand and abroad feel the effects of COVID-19 disruptions, closures and travel bans, there’ll be a lot of contracts and agreements that may need careful review.

Depending on how they were drafted, your contracts may put you in a very fortunate or unfortunate position.

Perhaps you or another party to your contract can no longer fulfil an obligation due to COVID-19. If your contract includes a force majeure provision, it may allow a party to breach the contract without the normal penalties. Force majeure comes into play when certain unanticipated events have made it impossible for one or both parties to fulfil their obligations.

Whether a force majeure provision applies, and what it means, will depend on how it’s drafted. We can help you review your existing contracts and advise you what implications any force majeure provisions (or lack thereof) might mean.

When it comes to drafting future contracts, we can help you make sure they’ll achieve what you need even in times of crisis.

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Coronavirus and General Business Matters

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s business.govt.nz website features a range of updates about how COVID-19 may affect New Zealand businesses and how the Government is responding.

There’s plenty more to consider. As with your personal legal arrangements, we can give you a business legal health check and advise you on what’s available to help your business get through.

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Coronavirus, landlords, investment properties and property management

The Government hasn’t announced any new policies, regulations or legislation applying to tenancies and rental properties. Tenants, landlords and property owners should refer to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Tenancy Services website for more information on their COVID-19 rights and obligations.

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Coronavirus and the Courts

The Courts of New Zealand are operating as normal as of 18 March, per guidance from Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann. However, as with all gatherings in public places, people are asked to stay at home if:

  • they are unwell,
  • have been in China, Iran, Italy or the Republic of Korea in the last 14 days, or
  • have been in close contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

We’ll advise any clients with upcoming proceedings of any impacts.

As of 24 March 2020, our team is working remotely, in accordance with the latest updates to the COVID-19 alert system.

Rest assured, we’re all still available and ready to help. We encourage you to call or email our team with anything you need.

Stay safe, and please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help,

The Canterbury Legal Team

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