Auckland Council's commercial landlord has been slow to help 139 tenants who have registered for hardship after four weeks in lockdown, say some tenants.
It has also been asked for help from 32 residential tenants and 73 berth holders at its marinas.
Panuku Development Auckland, which operates a large commercial and residential property portfolio, is still in the early stages of providing help to struggling tenants.
One tenant questioned how small commercial landlords are willing and able to help but a very large corporate landlord with a large balance sheet is effectively giving tenants "the middle finger".
The tenant, who did not want to be named, said at the start of the lockdown he asked for some rent abatement during the period as his income stream had stopped.
"The initial response was that they were working on something and I would
hear back from them. However, three weeks and more emails have resulted in
nothing but silence.
"I have a number of friends and colleagues in the same position but all of their 'mum and dad' landlords have agreed to share the pain," he said.
A second tenant, who also did not want to be named, was also damning of Panuku's slow response, saying he was continuing to pay his lease "so I don't fall foul of them" while the cashflow drained from his small business.
He said a check of his lease found it contained a clause allowing for a fair proportion of rent and outgoings should cease to be payable if the tenant is unable to gain access during an emergency.
"We are coming out of lockdown next week and they have had four weeks to decide something and yet there is nothing concrete at all," said the businessman, who noted plenty of commercial landlords reduced or stopped rent in the first week.
Marian Webb, Panuku's general manager of assets and delivery, said in a statement the Council-Controlled Organisation has 562 commercial tenants of which 139 have registered hardship or requested help.
Panuku also had 280 residential tenants and 1700 marina licence holders.
The annual rental return was $32.5 million from commercial, $6.7m from residential and $12.4m from marinas, she said.
Webb said over the past few weeks, Panuku had been looking at how it can support tenants, saying a proposed approach was approved by the board last Friday and more information will be provided to tenants this week.
"Each situation is different but as a general principle our approach in assessing claims will recognise that the pandemic has a disproportionate effect on some tenants over others, for example our food and beverage and retail tenants.
"Each claim for hardship support will need to be backed up with further information from tenants and we will need to look at the detail of their leases before we can assess their claim. Our support will be in the form of a rent reduction for some and a rent deferral for others dependent on individual hardship circumstances," Webb said.
She said once Panuku had all the relevant information to support each claim it was committed to get matters sorted "as soon as possible".
Webb said resources going into the issue included online tools and blogs, updates on relevant Government and business support and property managers, considered an essential service through the lockdown, contacting tenants.
One of the two affected tenants said the process will drag on for two months while he is expected to pay full rent.
"This has a massive effect on cashflow for a small business and the worst thing in this time is uncertainty," he said.
Meanwhile, the council is coming under pressure to be more open about the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and address the needs of business.
Newmarket Business Association chief executive Mark Knoff-Thomas yesterday said the council needs to take a close look at what more it can do.
"For example, should they remove their self-imposed debt-to-revenue cap, borrow more, and cancel any proposed rates increases? Everything must be reconsidered at this extraordinary time. The last thing businesses and property owners need right now is any further financial pressure," he said.
Arts philanthropist John Gow has written to Mayor Phil Goff and finance committee chairwoman Desley Simpson to complain about the secrecy at council.
"We, your ratepayers, have heard nothing from council. Ratepayers need to know what process council will follow in deciding which projects, programmes and expenditure will continue and which will be deferred or ditched."
For the third time in nine days, councillors will meet behind closed doors at an emergency committee meeting today to discuss financial matters - this time the approach to risk during lockdown and recovery.
Last week, acting group chief financial officer Kevin Ramsay said the council was considering potential scenarios and likely implications but was tight-lipped about the public release of information.
"It's too early to say when this release might occur but better indications should be known in the next couple of weeks."
A council spokeswoman yesterday said she was not aware of any update from Ramsay's statement, saying the council hopes to have a clearer picture in a couple of weeks.
Last week, councillors decided to go out for public consultation to consider a 2.5 per cent rates rise alongside the planned 3.5 per cent rates rise. The new rates come into effect on July 1 this year.