Since New Zealand suddenly entered Level 4 lockdown on 19 August, there have been many questions from the landlords and tenants that are frequently asked.
Today, we will answer those burning questions and hope it could help you to make better decisions.
Q: My tenant has asked for a rent reduction for the duration of Level 4, what shall I do?
A: You are not obligated to reduce rent during COVID lockdowns but should you consider it appropriate to do so (consider the tenant’s occupation, previous living conditions, etc). If you agree to temporarily reduce the rent, the communication should be done in writing and the record should be kept.
Don’t forget to encourage your tenants to consult the government’s various subsidies for lockdown, there is a “rent arrears assistance” specifically to help such situations.
Q: My tenant is behind on rent and hasn’t been in touch. Should I issue a 14-day notice?
A: 14-day notices hasn’t changed from the last lockdown. Yes, you absolutely should irrespective of the lockdown if only to preserve your position.
Q: My tenant is scheduled to move in/out during Level 4, can that still happen?
A: Generally speaking, NO unless it is essential for them to move in very limited circumstances. They will not be able to hire a moving company and will have to carry out the entire move within their bubbles.
Q: Can scheduled repair jobs still be carried out during Level 4?
A: No, seeing that scheduled work is, by its nature, not urgent. However, tradespeople can attend the property during Level 4 if there is an immediate threat to life, health and safety.
Q: When lockdown happened last year, it was clearly stated that the tenancy agreement cannot be terminated. Given that we are back at Level 4, am I prohibited from terminating a tenancy or increasing rent like landlords were in 2020?
A: No. The COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Amendment Act is no longer in force. For the time being, there is no ban on termination nor is there one on rent increase. In saying that, common sense would have to prevail and we invite landlords to look at things in a more practical way; as in to consider matters of (scheduled) termination/rent increase more broadly and appreciate the knock-on effects on tenants (especially those whose income is disrupted by the lockdown).
Q: My new tenant has signed the tenancy agreement, paid her bond and rent (in advance) but is now unable to move in due to the lockdown. Can I still charge her rent for the duration of Level 4?
A: It is a tricky problem, especially since the tenant is already in possession of the key(s), We don’t think it is a good idea to charge incoming tenants rent if they are unable to move in. Assuming this same tenant is incurring accommodation costs elsewhere for the duration of Level 4, we think to add to her existing financial burden without the exchange of anything in value is a bad way to start a relationship. If this lockdown gets extended further then there will be new challenges. But in the ongoing lockdown, it is basically not quite possible for you to find a new tenant.
Do you have any further questions? Welcome to scan the QR Code to ask.