By Nita Blake-Persen of RNZ
Tenants struggling to pay the rent as the lockdown drags on say calls for landlords to show compassion are going unanswered.
A pause on mortgage payments has not trickled down to rental deferrals for most tenants, with thousands having to request emergency accommodation supplements to get by.
But landlords say they have bills to pay too, and they need to help themselves before they can pass that on.
Tauranga man John is among those who are struggling to pay the rent at the moment.
His partner is pregnant with the baby due next month and after four weeks of ACC leave he was due to head back to work as a landscape gardener the Monday before the lockdown came into place.
"We're not at the point at not knowing where our next meal is coming from, but it feels like in my current situation things are not looking so bright."
He asked his landlord for some rent relief through his property manager but was told that wasn't an option.
John said he felt like the deck was not stacked in favour of renters - while rents are frozen and landlords can't end tenancies unless specific reasons apply, there haven't been any changes to the rules around rent.
John's not alone in needing help - more than 317,000 people received the government's accommodation supplement last month.
ActionStation community organiser Kassie Harthendorpe said a survey carried out by the group had revealed more than 100 anecdotes of renters struggling.
"They're finding it hard to get reasonable rent reductions, people in between houses who can't move during lockdown so they're paying double rent in some cases, the rising living costs from lockdown.
"It's a disaster really."
New Zealand Property Investors Federation president Sharon Cullwick said a survey of its 620 members who own more than 6000 rental properties found that during the second week of lockdown more than 6 per cent had reduced rent for tenants and 2.6 per cent had agreed to rent deferrals.
She said while mortgage holiday schemes were available, they were often not a good option for homeowners.
"You might take six months off your mortgage payments but instead of adding six months on the end of them it may end up being 12 months or 13 months and the cost of that is normally quite a lot more than the cost of actually paying your mortgage for that time."
She said landlords have bills too - and they can't help tenants if they're struggling themselves.
"Ninety per cent of our members only own their own house plus one other property - they have to look after themselves before they start putting the oxygen mask on to other people which may mean that they can't afford to give their tenants a holiday on rental payments.
She said members of the New Zealand Property Investors Federation were often older people who had their rental properties as a retirement plan.
"They still need to look after themselves before they can help the tenants."
More than 580,000 households in New Zealand are renters.
John said with so many people paying rent, there had to be something that could be offered to help them.
"I'm no economist and nor a mathematician and I know there are quite precise and tricky calculations involved with those sorts of things but I'm sure it would be easy enough to work out and pass on the reduction to us."
The government's Tenancy Service centre said it had received nearly 2000 related calls between March 23 and April 9.
There were nearly 650 applications made to the tenancy tribunal during the first two weeks of the lockdown.