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Chris The Lawyer
Chris The Lawyer, Lawyer
Category: New Zealand Law
Satisfied Customers: 22831
Experience:  38 years qualified as a lawyer; LLB, MMgt and FAMINZ.
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What is the law relating to an ex-tenant using social media

Customer Question

What is the law relating to an ex-tenant using social media sites (eg. Facebook) to attack us (the landlord)? Could this be considered defamation of character?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: New Zealand Law
Expert:  Chris The Lawyer replied 1 year ago.

There is a new act of Parliament which protects people from being slandered on social media, which is the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015. This act sets out a number of principles which are directly relevant to your situation. In the worst cases, people have been sent to jail for breaches of this act.

Expert:  Chris The Lawyer replied 1 year ago.

6Communication principles


The communication principles are—

Principle 1

A digital communication should not disclose sensitive personal facts about an individual.

Principle 2

A digital communication should not be threatening, intimidating, or menacing.

Principle 3

A digital communication should not be grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the position of the affected individual.

Principle 4

A digital communication should not be indecent or obscene.

Principle 5

A digital communication should not be used to harass an individual.

Principle 6

A digital communication should not make a false allegation.

Principle 7

A digital communication should not contain a matter that is published in breach of confidence.

Principle 8

A digital communication should not incite or encourage anyone to send a message to an individual for the purpose of causing harm to the individual.

Principle 9

A digital communication should not incite or encourage an individual to commit suicide.

Principle 10

A digital communication should not denigrate an individual by reason of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

Expert:  Chris The Lawyer replied 1 year ago.

Your tenant is likely to be breaching principal two, possibly three, and principles five and six.

Expert:  Chris The Lawyer replied 1 year ago.

You have two ways of starting a process, the first of which is to go to an approved agency and the second is to apply to the District Court for appropriate orders requiring the offending material to be removed.

Expert:  Chris The Lawyer replied 1 year ago.

If they don't comply with the orders, they can be fined or sent to jail. So I suggest your first step should be to tell them to remove the material or this will happen.

Expert:  Chris The Lawyer replied 1 year ago.

NetSafe has been appointed as the Approved Agency under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. This appointment will see NetSafe manage and assist internet users with cases of online harassment under a new civil enforcement regime.

As the Approved Agency, NetSafe, will also have a statutory function to provide online safety advice, educate the public and collaborate with service provides and agencies to achieve the purpose of the legislation.

NetSafe is currently establishing the services required to perform the role of the Approved Agency which is expected to launch in November.



Harmful digital communication can take many forms. Whether it is an email with offensive content, or a post on a social media site that attempts to spread rumours or lies about an individual, the common theme that runs through these examples is that they are intended to harm someone.


Digital communications are any form of communication that is transmitted via online technologies. They include:

  • Emails;
  • Texts and pictures;
  • Website content;
  • Blog posts;
  • Comments;
  • Online forums (or “Chatrooms”);
  • Social networks or social media sites; and
  • Phone based apps


The Harmful Digital Communications Act provides new mechanisms to help individuals take action to reduce the harm caused by harmful digital communications.

The Act sets out:

  • new measures to help victims, and to simplify the process for getting harmful communications off the internet quickly and effectively (for example, establishing the Approved Agency and court-ordered takedown notices, and outlining a complaints handling process that online content hosts must use if they want the protection of the “safe harbour” provision); and
  • new criminal offences to penalise the most serious perpetrators (for example, the new criminal offences of causing harm by posting harmful digital communications).

At its core the Act lays out 10 communications principles which define the criteria for which any digital communication may be deemed harmful.

They establish that communications should not be threatening, intimidating or menacing; grossly offensive; indecent or obscene; or denigrating of a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation or disability. The principles also encompass any encouragement for another person to create harmful communication.

A breach of one of the principles alone is not enough to take action. The communication must be likely to or has caused serious emotional distress.

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