Will Level 1 mean Level 1 for residential landlords?

Does a move to Covid-19 Level 1, that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Cabinet are considering tomorrow (Monday, June 8), mean back-to-normal for 290,000 rental property owners and managers, Tenancies War spokesman Mike Butler said today.

The Covid-19 Response (Urgent Management) Act, that went through Parliament and was given Royal Assent in a single day, being May 25, 2020, intended to “put in place the necessary arrangements in order to implement COVID-19 Alert Level 4”.

Schedule 5 of this Act spells out the Draconian measures that froze or changed rental property processes to do with unpaid rent and tenancy terminations for three months. These include measures that mean:

  1. Tenants can stop paying rent for 60 days before any consequences. This is up from 21 days.
  2. Owners face a fine of $6500 if they give notice or apply to terminate a tenancy.
  3. Tenants may stay in a property despite having given notice and without regard to the rights of a new tenant who has signed an agreement to rent the property.

There is an option to extend the freeze for a further three months, which goes to after the election.

We are now in Level 2 and will soon be in Level 1. If the rental property provisions of the Act were set up for Level 4, and since we are no longer under those restrictions, surely the rental property provisions of the Act are already redundant, Mr Butler said.

These harsh, anti-landlord measures appear to have nothing to do with Covid-19 and everything to do with the current Government implementing its amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act without having to get them through Parliament, he said.

This affront to democracy rides roughshod over the rights of New Zealand’s rental property owners, many of whom are leaving the sector, he said.

This exodus is happening at a time when the waiting list for a State house has soared to 16,309 (more than double that of 2017), and when the Government failed to deliver on its promise to build 30,000 affordable homes in three years.

Below are news stories on unintended consequences of the Covid-19 Response (Urgent Management) Act and how some coped with the authoritarian crackdown on residential rental property.

No data is available on how owners had to sneak around dealing with tenancy issues during the Level 4 lockdown at a time that housing was deemed non-essential and rental property owners were locked down and unable to perform basic functions legally.

Neither is there any data on the extent of additional rent arrears incurred during the Government’s Covid-19 panic, or how owners tried to defuse anti-social behaviour knowing that authorities would only deal with an extreme consequence, such as the boarding house murder (See below).

Tomorrow, Cabinet should tell New Zealand’s 290,000 rental property owners and managers that the rules that apply to rental property will be those of the Residential Tenancies Act without the now redundant Schedule 5 of the Covid-19 Response (Urgent Management) Act, Mr Butler said.

If New Zealand is safe enough to return to Level 1, it goes without saying that should be no extension of the freeze on rental property processes for a further three months to September 25, which is after the election, he said.