An update from the Wendell Team
New Zealand is in Alert Level 4 which means all non-essential businesses closed at 11:59pm, 25 March 2020. We can assure you that although our shop front may be closed our business, and support for you, is very much open. We will continue to care for our property owners, our tenants and properties. Our team is well equipped to work from home during this time and we remain contactable through our normal email address and mobile numbers.
In the last 2 weeks there have been significant announcements from the government. I’ve summarised the key points and included links if you wish to read further. It’s a huge amount of information for us all to digest and with almost hourly updates we are all finding our feet amongst the new rules. We ask for your support and patience as we navigate these new waters.
Our arrears are still very low and we’re achieving this by connecting with people (often daily) via phone to check in and see how we can help. We are ensuring our tenants know how to access the government grants, what they can apply for and how they can get help.
I’ve been impressed by how many people have felt able to reach out to us, explain their situation and have been willing to work with us already. That said, we are preparing for rental arrears to increase. We have put the following process in place so if they cannot pay their full rent, we are asking if they’re able to pay a portion of the it with a view to pay the rest back when their income increases again -all by agreement with the owner.
On Saturday 28th March, the Government announced they would not assist tenants further with rental rebates. This was a blow, however they have done fantastic work with wages, self employed and beneficiaries – so their was concern that a rental rebate would lead to ‘double dipping’.
The Residential Tenancies Act states that a tenancy can be terminated at 21 days in rental arrears, this has been extended to 60 days effective immediately. This is only for a 3 month period, with a possible additional 3 month extension .
Some owners have already contacted us and offered a discount to their tenants. We are happy to arrange this
We’ve made the decision to support anyone who does wish to offer a rental reduction. For the reduced amount the tenants pay, we won’t charge our fees on that portion.
We also encourage anyone who is struggling to offer a rental reduction or to make their mortgage payments, to please reach out. There are some fantastic resources available, some are just a bit hard to find.
If your tenant is unable to pay their rent, you may be able to access a mortgage holiday (link below of media coverage) if you can prove you have been affected financial by COVID-19. We can help with this and can provide statements and rental summaries as proof to validate your application. Please contact your bank or mortgage broker to discuss this with them and as is best with all financial decisions please speak with your financial advisor.
The government also announced a ‘rent freeze’. This means that any increase that has already been issued and was due to take effect from 26th March has been cancelled and we cannot increase rents for a further 6 months. All affected owners and tenants have been contacted and advised of the rental increase reversal.
No termination notices for 3 months
Property owners cannot give notice to terminate a lease or end a tenancy until 26th June 2020 (and this may be extended for a further 3 months). If you have a fixed term lease ending before then this will automatically revert to a periodic tenancy and the tenant will not have to leave. This only affects a handful of our owners and tenants we will contact you directly about this. It is worth noting that tenants can still end their leases (on the usual terms). Again, this change is for an initial 3 month period and will revert back to normal afterwards.
Property Letting – Finding new tenants
We are not shifting tenants into or out of properties during the 4 week lockdown period. We have been able to move all tenants either side of the lockdown period.
We are unable to do any physical viewings for prospective tenants during lockdown. We are still able to market properties online and have arranged property videos for some properties that are available now or straight after lockdown. We can collect references and applications and process these during lockdown and signing a property can be completed virtually. A tenant cannot move into the property though until the lockdown is lifted (at the earliest 23rd April 2020).
Here is an example of our video walk through. We’re doing this at no extra cost for our owners. We completed as many as possible before the lockdown and will resume filming once restrictions have been listed.
All regularly scheduled routine inspections continue to be deferred during the Alert Level 4 lockdown period. As a safety measure for landlord insurance policies, we will keep clear records indicating this as the reason why any routine inspection is deferred.
We have asked your tenants to report anything to us that they may have noticed has changed and we can triage if this is required, any urgent maintenance can still be organised and completed.
Repairs and Maintenance
Urgent maintenance is an essential service. We will communicate any such scenarios with you as best we can and have advised tenants that non-urgent maintenance will be deferred.
You can review and understand these requirements here: https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/maintenance-and-inspections/repairs-and-damages/
Some property owners may have insurance policies that can assist in any non-payment of rent scenarios. Please review any cover you have and ensure your property manager is aware of the specific details outlined in your policy.
We encourage those landlords who do not have specific cover for these situations to speak with your insurer and consider the benefit of placing new policies as a safety measure but before you do buy a new policy please make sure it does not have exclusions on the current crisis.
All property settlements have been deferred or brought forward either side of the lockdown period.
All rental payments will continue as per normal. We are still able to receipt rents and make payments during this time.
We thank you for your understanding throughout this time and want to stress that the health, wellbeing and safety of our tenants, property owners and team is paramount to us. This communication today is simply another step to try and help us all better understand the changing future that it upon us and to plan ahead accordingly.
Please reach out to either myself or your Property Manager. We are receiving a higher than normal level of emails and our response time may be delayed. We aim to get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding and patience.