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We’re in lockdown. So what does that mean for Property Management?

By Roxanne Pienaar
We can assure you that, although our shop fronts may be closed, we remain very much open and continue to manage your property, your tenants and each of your best interests as best we can. Our team is well equipped to work from home during this time and we remain contactable through our normal email address and mobile numbers.
As the situation continues to evolve we will keep you up to date. Below is how things sit for us all right now.

What about routine inspections?

All regularly scheduled routine inspections should be deferred until further notice.  we have recorded the Covid-19 level 4 lock-down as the reason as to why the inspections had to be deferred.

What about property viewings or lettings?

No new lettings or viewings of rental properties will occur now that level 4 lockdown has been implemented, even for properties that are vacant or have already been listed online. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • A start date for any new tenancy cannot be promised to new tenants.
  • We cannot control many of the circumstances surrounding tenants moving into a new rental property such as cleanliness, their rental payments, or ability to move should they become affected by COVID-19 etc.
  • The process of viewing and letting is likely to breach level 4 lockdown conditions of isolation.

What about repairs and maintenance?

During the level 4 Covid-19 shutdown, all repairs and maintenance should be classified as either urgent or non-urgent before progressing to the following steps:

  • Urgent repairs 

Urgent repairs should be classed as an essential service. We can still organise these providing all tradespeople and tenants involved reduce all close contact and adhere to safe hygiene practices to prevent the risk of Covid-19 spread. Urgent repairs are those that either is a legal requirement or where failing to repair will put either the tenants or property at risk.

  • Non-urgent repairs

Log any non-urgent repairs and reassess at the end of NZ level 4 lockdown period. Ensure both tenants and landlords are aware (in writing) they have been logged, but cannot be actioned at this time. 

How do we handle tenant requests for rent reductions?

If a tenant reaches out requesting a rent reduction this is a clear indicator that future arrears are likely. In these scenarios we will be doing the following:

  • Reassure tenants that the understanding is Government support is coming, the details have just not been announced as yet. 
  • We will contact you, the landlord to discuss this further. Direct your tenant to investigate the Government wage subsidy package here: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/
  • Request confirmation from the tenant, in writing, with clear details around timelines and amounts if possible to provide to the landlord. 
  • Recommend that you, the landlord, consult with your insurer to see if this could impact any cover in place. 
  • Should the landlord agree, create an agreement of sorts for all parties to agree upon in writing. Consider start date, amount change, end date and any other details you may require in a worst-case scenario Tribunal situation. 

How do we handle tenant arrears?

Throughout this situation, standard arrears monitoring processes will remain in place, however, should any tenant fall into arrears, or communicate that this may be likely, we will be following these steps:

  • We will confirm for the tenant, in writing, that in this unknown time we must continue to follow our arrears process. Reassure tenants that this is a formality and that at all times we will update them as we receive more clarity from the Government as to how this will be handled. 
  • Reassure tenants that the understanding is Government support is coming, the details have just not been announced as yet. 
  • Encourage tenants to investigate the Government wage subsidy package here: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/
  • Respectfully issue normal breach notices to ensure any possible future enforcement options via the Tenancy Tribunal are in place. 
  • Review the wording of your arrears letters and texts to ensure compassion and a clear understanding of the current circumstances are acknowledged. 

Some key updates regarding rent payments or arrears as of today’s date: 

  • A rent freeze has now taken effect and landlords are not able to increase a tenant’s rent for the foreseeable future. It’s worth mentioning that some tenants have misheard/misinterpreted this information and have been calling into our offices to confirm if a rent freeze means they don’t have to pay rent. This is not the case. Rent is still due in full.
  • The Government has indicated it will look to “extend no-cause terminations” with more details become available in the coming days. It will mean tenants cannot be evicted for not paying rent. 
  • Tenants who have signed agreements, or have implied tenancy agreements in place for new rental properties but were not able to move in because of the lockdown would still be liable for rent.

What about the Tenancy Tribunal where cases are already lodged?

The Government has indicated that the Tenancy Tribunal is classed as an essential service, so cases may still be booked to go ahead.  We will speak with the Tenancy Tribunal immediately to confirm the correct details regarding specific cases. We will let you, our landlords, and your tenants know what is happening, in writing, once advised by the Tenancy Tribunal.

The government has advised that any case involving the eviction of a tenant is unlikely to occur during the level 4 lockdown period. 

What about tenant handovers booked to occur during the 4 week lockdown period? 

The industry is still waiting for Government guidance on how to address these situations and at the time of writing this, we cannot, unfortunately, provide specific answers. 

Until we receive a confirmation on how to handle these, we recommend the following steps:

  • We will make contact immediately with all tenants vacating or starting a new tenancy during the 4 week lockdown period and hopefully find a middle ground e.g. vacating tenant wishes to stay and incoming tenants are unable to move-in. 
  • Record all actions and communications between both parties and the vacating/incoming tenants.
  • Communicate with you, the landlords to ensure you have been notified of the current situation and any impact tenant movements. 

Please be reassured we are working through everything one-step at a time and doing our best to handle this situation with care and consideration of your investment and the wellbeing of the tenant as well.

Please get in touch with our Property Management team should you have any queries.

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