This story was originally published in RNZ.co.nz and republished with permission.
Tenants are preparing for an increase in living costs when the rent freeze increases at the end of next week.
This was after the Trade Commission had to warn property investors that they might be at risk of behaving like a cartel after discussing rent increases, en masse, a day after the freeze ends.
The government announced a six-month freeze on rent increases on March 26, it was a set measure to protect tenants during the Covid-19 pandemic.
* Manawat tenants facing $ 200 rent increase after rent increase freeze ends
* Online property investor chats trigger a reminder of price adjustment
* Tenants were told: rent holder increases announcements in the coming weeks
* Blocking ‘last straw’ for troubled property investors
* Coronavirus: There is no large increase in residential tenants not paying rent when blocking Covid-19
However, some tenants have been served early notice, pending the end of the freeze.
Zoe *, who rents a one-bedroom studio in Wellington, is one of them.
She recently lost her job through Covid-19 and is also partially sighted.
Her disability benefit, which is all of her weekly income, is $ 500.
With the renewal of her rent in August, there was also an announcement that her rent would drop to $ 40 a week, starting on the day the rent freeze ends – September 25th.
That brings her rent up to $ 370 a week – 75 percent of her total income.
“I was devastated, obviously, because $ 330 is already too much, and it was in the abyss that I would not be able to pay it either.”
She responded to the notice, asking the owner to review, given her personal situation as well as the condition of the unit, which is damp and moldy.
No work has been done on the property during the time she has lived there, she said.
The property management company responded, saying they were sorry to hear about its circumstances, but that the owner needed a better return of his property.
They then asked if she had tried running a dehumidifier “constantly”.
Due to her disability, Zoe needs shelter that is suitable for her needs and can accommodate her guide dog.
She sought other places in Wellington, but nothing was suitable.
So she is forced to accept the increase.
“Kind is kind of bad, honestly, and it’s very cynical that they did it as soon as they could.”
The Trade Commission sends the alarm
Last month, the Trade Commission launched a warning blow to investors in the properties found by discussing plans to increase rents, en masse, in online forums.
There were discussions about all the growing industry rents a day after the lease freeze ends, on September 26th.
Commission Chairwoman Anna Rawlings said investors were at risk of violating the Trade Act and advisory letters were sent to industry representatives.
“Landlords need to be aware that they can be in competition with each other for the supply of rental properties and they can conduct a business in the supply of properties.
“As a result, they are subject to the provisions of competition law and consumer protection laws. They need to make sure they are aware of their obligations and ensure that they comply with them,” she said.
‘A general discussion’ between owners
Sharon Cullwick, who is the executive officer of the Federation of Property Investors, received one of those letters.
Investors were discussing options on Facebook, she said, and she is urging them to heed the warnings.
“I think it was a general discussion that the Trade Commission conducted. I don’t think it was something specific. But it really is a warning to us that they are watching what property investors are doing.”
She also thought the Commission did not want rents to rise in the Covid-19 climate.
Tenants can expect to see lease announcements appearing in the next two months, Cullwick said.
“What we have heard is that there are quite a few landlords who give rent increases, but some of these are because when the legislation came in, we could not increase rents at the time and that put a delay on that.”
Helen O’Sullivan is the chief executive of Crockers Property Management, which manages a large portfolio of property, including many apartments in Auckland.
She is not seeing many announcements of rent increase and is not expecting it.
“Homeowners are recognizing that having a quality tenant who can pay the bills right now is the best way to maximize your revenue stream.”
It takes quite a few weeks of $ 20 or an extra $ 30 a week to make up for three weeks if you are left empty, O’Sullivan said.
“Maintaining your tenants is really the best way to save revenue for landlords right now.”
She is urging landlords to keep good tenants if they can.
* Name has been changed for privacy reasons.
This story was originally published in RNZ.co.nz and republished with permission.
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