Senior Ministers are condemning property manager Quinovic for telling tenants they will get a 14-day notice if they miss rent payments - even though they can't be evicted for 60 days under a new law.
But Quinovic says it was a notice about rent owing, not eviction, and it had been misconstrued.
Quinovic manages thousands of properties nationwide and sent a letter to all its tenants yesterday morning, before Parliament passed a new law changing the grounds for eviction.
The letter acknowledged the economic fallout of the Covid-19 outbreak and told tenants that the company could support a tenants' application for welfare support if needed.
"It is likely that missed rent payments will still result in a 14-day notice to you. This is an insurance requirement for most policies," the letter said.
But the new law means that landlords can only kick out tenants in very limited circumstances, including if rent remains unpaid after 60 days.
Even then, the Tenancy Tribunal could still allow a renter to stay put if reasonable efforts had been made to pay rent.
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Renters' United spokesman Robert Whitaker says Quinovic's letter was appalling, especially as it was a stressful time for tenants, with many having lost jobs or work hours.
"Quinovic do not have the power to issue a 14-day notice for at least the next eight weeks. At this difficult time the last thing renters need are cold-hearted, tone deaf and inaccurate communications from their property managers."
Housing Minister Megan Woods and Justice Minister Andrew Little were alerted to Quinovic's letter on Twitter and both said it would be taken care of.
Little said Quinovic was in breach of the law by "implying they can evict when they can't", while Woods had one of her officials contact Quinovic last night.
"We made sure they were really clear on the changes to the law yesterday - unpaid rent isn't grounds for eviction for the next 60 days," Woods told the Herald.
She said Quinovic's letter caused a lot of unnecessary anxiety, and the fact it was sent before the new law had passed was no excuse.
"It was being well-signalled that there was going to be a rent freeze and changes to the causes for termination."
Quinovic chief operating officer Paul Chapman Thorndon said the 14-day notice was not an eviction notice, but about missing rent payments, and issuing the notice was a legal obligation under the Residential Tenancy Act
"We have been advised by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to follow our normal process in situations of rent arrears.
"We are also required to follow these processes for insurance purposes."
"It appears the meaning of a 14-day notice has been misconstrued."
He said clear information about the new law and the grounds for eviction had now been issued to landlords and tenants.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she wanted to know about businesses that were not properly passing on their Government wage subsidy payments to their workers, or landlords who were mistreating tenants.
Woods said the new law was not an invitation for tenants to stop paying rent.
"But that 60-day period gives people time, if someone has lost their job, to get the right support around them."
Tenants can still be evicted if they substantially damage the property, assault or threaten their landlord, abandon the property, or engage in "significant" anti-social behavior or illegal activity.