COVID-19 Property Owner Questions Answered

With the majority of the property management related announcements out in the open we thought we’d take a moment to put together some FAQ’s to answer the most common questions that are popping up. If we missed something, please ask – you may help answer someone else’s question as well!

Will you be conducting routine inspections during the level 4 restrictions? 

Unfortunately not, the guidelines imposed by the government are clear regarding this as it is essential the property managers and tenants self-isolate to minimise cross-contamination.

We are exploring virtual inspections. However, we are unclear if the insurance company will deem this an inspection or if they will require us to go as soon as lockdown is lifted. We are preparing for both.

Do I need to notify my insurance provider if inspections are not done? 

Yes, please do – it is important that they are aware. Under the circumstances most insurers are being lenient but be sure that good notes are recorded as to why the inspection was delayed.

I am concerned that the property may not be checked for several weeks, if not months. Will you be in regular contact with the tenants? 

Yes, absolutely. Although we cannot currently inspect properties we have a very good relationship with our tenants and they know to report any issues. Our team are reaching out to every tenant, ensuring they are safe, the property is secure with no urgent maintenance and also checking they can access the government grants for financial assistance.

We are also working on a solution to complete remote video inspections – watch this space!

What happens if tenants fall into financial hardships? 

This is a likely reality for some of the tenants renting properties under management. We are speaking with each tenant to work with them to find a solution. The government has set up financial support specifically for this reason. Our property managers are all aware of the grants and how to access them. The team will guide tenants to the information online and offer support to ensure that the weekly rent continues.

Does a rental freeze mean tenants don’t have to pay rent? 

No. Tenants are required to pay their weekly rent as per usual. If they come into financial hardships the government has offered financial support for beneficiaries, wage earners and those who are self-employed. Our team will direct your tenants to this support if needed.

Can I offer my tenants a reduced rent for this period? 

Yes, you can. We will work with owners on a case by case basis to determine what is fair and reasonable.

Will repairs & maintenance be completed during the level 4 restrictions? 

If the repair is urgent, then yes it will still be attended to. We are still open during normal business hours and will address anything urgent that is brought to our attention. However, if it is not urgent then it is deemed to be non-essential and will be postponed until the level 4 restrictions are lifted.

What happens if there is an emergency after hours? 

If a tenant has an urgent maintenance issue, they can call the 09 849 2588 and press 1 to be directed to our on call property manager.

My tenant was due to move out during April, what happens now? 

As per the new legislation the existing tenant can retract their notice to vacate and they can remain in the property. If a new tenant was signed up to move in after the existing tenant left they would now need to find alternative accommodation. The existing tenant gets priority.

We are working on a case by case basis here and thankfully we have been able to contact anyone in this position to assist them before level 4 lockdown commenced.

Can a tenant move out of the property during the level 4 restrictions? 

No, tenants cannot move during this time. This has been made clear during press conferences and in the media. Some police stations (when phoned) are saying tenants are allowed to move but in other cases police are stopping people trying to move, warning them this is not an essential service and therefore not allowed during lockdown.

We are taking a common sense approach with this – if a tenant has a safe place to live they should stay there until the lockdown is lifted!

Can we increase the rent, and what happens if we have already advised the tenant? 

No, you can’t. The new legislation is clear here. Any rent increase that did not come into effect prior to the 26th of March is to be retracted. Rent increases cannot happen for six months and any increase is an unlawful act and punishable with a $6500 fine. If a rent increase was issued, the property manager will advise the tenants that it has been cancelled. We will need to reassess the rent increase and if appropriate reissue it in 6 months time and give the 60 days notice again.

What happens if my property is vacant? 

We will advertise your property as per usual. All registered parties will be contacted, reference checked and we will arrange a viewing for as soon as the level 4 restrictions are reduced. If there are extended vacancies due to the Covid-19 pandemic, you may qualify for financial support or a mortgage holiday from your bank.

We’ll do our bit to help too. Just ask.

Will we be required to meet the Healthy Homes deadline of July 2021?  

We have not been told that there is any change to this deadline. However, it is highly likely that the deadline will be postponed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.  As soon we have any more information on this we will be in touch to advise and update you.

During this period, how do I keep up to speed with all the changes? 

Your property manager is updated daily of any changes. We’ll also keep you updated via email and update our blog when new information comes to light. Things do change quickly and so we urge you to ensure that you check the date of publish on anything you are reading.

Can I provide my tenant with a 90-day notice? 

Under the new legislation, you cannot provide a no-clause termination. This is now an unlawful act, and punishable by a fine of $6500.

Your tenant can still give you notice to end the tenancy though.

Can I provide the tenant with a notice to vacate if I want to move back into the property? 

If the tenant is provided with 42 days’ notice after the commencement date (26th March, 2020) then this is postponed for a period of three months. If the notice was provided before the level 4 restrictions, then the notice still applies.

Your tenant can still give you notice to end the tenancy though.

What happens if the tenants lease is due to end and I don’t want to extend it?

All fixed term leases (expiring in the next 3 months) revert to periodic at termination and therefore do not end unless the tenant gives you notice. This is a big change and has already affected some owners who were planning on moving into their home. They now have to extend the notice to at least 26th June 2020.

The government have made it clear that (if needed) they will extend this rule for an additional 3 months.

Your tenant can still give you notice to end the tenancy though.

Do tenants get any rental relief from the government?

An announcement regarding this was released on Saturday 28th March, stating that the government will not be offering a rental rebate to tenants who are unable to pay their rent.

A rental rebate (some thought) would lead to double dipping. There are some people excluded from the grants and we are working with them on a case by case basis.