Rental complaints are surging as the country enters its second day of lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Unions Wellington co-convener Alastair Reith said they've been inundated with people complaining of tenancy issues, many of whom are upset and scared.

"It's very concerning, we're all supposed to pull together in this moment and some landlords and some employers are trying to take advantage of people and profiteering during a crisis."

He said people should be able to feel safe and secure in their housing situation.

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"We've had, in the past 24 hours, probably about a dozen people asking for help or advice about landlords threatening evictions or upping rent and employers not offering people their entitlements."

He told the Herald they don't normally focus on rental issues but these were not usual times.

"If you see people getting ripped off, speak up about it, contact Unions Wellington and we'll be do it for them."

Property management company Quinovic was condemned by Senior Ministers yesterday for sending out a message that told tenants they would be issued a 14-day notice if they missed rent payments - even though they can't be evicted for 60 days under a new law.

Quinovic said the notice had been misconstrued and was about rent owing not eviction.

The company sent the letter out on Wednesday, just hours before Parliament passed a law which changed the grounds for eviction.

Last Tuesday at 3.30pm Tania Keen received a call from her landlord that changed everything. They were being evicted.

"I couldn't believe it, we were supposed to have two days to pack our house up, find a new house and have money for that."

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She's lived at her rental home in Newlands, Wellington, for eight years but after a dispute around rent arrears and repairs she and her husband were told last week they had until Friday to vacate the house.

However, when the bailiff arrived at the household, Keen said they refused to perform the eviction on moral grounds due to the lack of other housing options, Keen's diabetes and the timing.

Unions Wellington doesn't usually deal with many rental issues but since the COVID 19 pandemic it has seen a huge influx. Photo / 123rf
Unions Wellington doesn't usually deal with many rental issues but since the COVID 19 pandemic it has seen a huge influx. Photo / 123rf

The matter had been before the Tenancy Tribunal, and Tania and her partner were ordered to keep paying their regular rent of $470 a week plus extra to make up the arrears.

She told the Herald they purposely withheld rent because some repairs hadn't been done.

The arrears at its worst got to around $3500, and Keen said it was about $2100 when the matter went to the tenancy tribunal. Most of this has now been paid back.

Her landlord Shikha Dutt said the house was in good nick and they started the eviction process three weeks ago but did not intend for them to be evicted in these tough times.

"After the lockdown I am happy to talk to them and ask them what would be comfortable for them."

She said the tenants may be taking advantage of the crisis and she was also being put out financially by the situation.

"We are not evicting them during the lockdown, but at the moment they are still in arrears."

Ron Harvey, who also lives in Wellington, received an email today that advised him his rent would rise by $60 a week- with a temporary discount during the lockdown.

Harvey said they were being asked to sign a new tenancy agreement, since a new owner had taken over the rental three weeks ago.

However, when contacted by the Herald, property manager Liz Donnelly said in the hours since sending the email they had withdrawn the rent increase.

She said it was now illegal to increase rents, but it was a confusing time for landlords.

The rent freeze is set to last for six months and the protections against evictions will last for three months, but both could be extended.

"Even when I spoke to tenancy I had unclear instructions on how this law can be applied."

Donnelly said there were lots of sides to every story and the property was only recently taken over by a new owner who just wanted the rent to be fair.

"We want them there now, we want them there after this."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website