A veteran Auckland CBD retailer has been left astounded to find he has been locked out of his store by his landlord after not being able to pay his rent due to Covid-19.
Peter Eccles of collectibles store Eccles Coins & Bank Notes, which has been trading in Auckland city centre for more than 50 years, says he has been unable to get into his shop since this morning.
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He said his landlord - private family-owned property investor CP Group, which owns a number of office blocks across Auckland and hotels across New Zealand - changed the locks to the store without notice this morning.
"We had a call from our burglar alarm company to say the alarm was going off so I rushed down there to find the landlord has locked us out and changed the lock on the building," Eccles, in his early 70s, told the Herald.
He said the business had been unable to pay its rent over the past two months due to no revenue during lockdown due to Covid-19.
Eccles said he had sought rent relief from the landlord, which has offices in the same building as the shop.
CP Group had reduced the rent for the business by 15 per cent, but Eccles said he had not accepted this as other tenants in the building had received 50 per cent reductions.
"They haven't offered us any meaningful discount for the two months of the lockdown, which we think is not fair."
The issue now, Eccles said, was he could no longer access the $100,000 worth of stock in the shop.
The landlord let Eccles into the shop to shut off the alarm, but told him that the full rent for the past three months plus a $1000 bond needed to be paid in order to get access back into the shop.
Eccles is now looking to move the shop to another location.
He said he was surprised the landlord had taken such an extreme stance for outstanding rent arrears of $3700. "We've been in business over 50 years, within one kilometre of Queen Street," although not from the same premises.
Jonathan Pang of CP Group declined to comment on the situation. He said the issue was a legal matter.
Eccles Coins & Bank Notes has been trading out of the 87-93 Queen Street Dingwall building for three years.
Eccles said he hoped to negotiate to pay one month's outstanding rent that would allow him to get access to the stock in the store. "They say unless we pay the full amount they won't let us back in.
"It seems unfair that we can be locked out of our own premises; it seems such a draconian move."
In a email sent to Eccles this morning, Pang said the landlord had taken possession of the premises, changed the door lock and deactivated after hours access to the building as the rent and "Opex for April, May and June had not been paid" and "the notice terminating tenancy had expired".
"You will be given access to the premises after you have paid the rent and Opex in cleared funds plus a reinstatement bond of $1000 which will be refunded provided you reinstate the premises when you vacate," the email said.
Eccles said the situation he had found himself in was shocking, particularly given the Government had publically encouraged landlords to negotiate rent relief or reductions with their tenants due to financial hardship caused by the pandemic.
CP Group is owned by richlister family the Pandeys, they have interests in a portfolio of hotels and resorts across the US, Australia and Fiji and commercial properties in New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia.