From RNZ

A nationwide property management company has changed the wording of its advice to landlords wanting to offer rent holidays to tenants struggling during the Covid-19 shutdown.

Property Brokers had been suggesting on its website that landlords offer grocery vouchers or help paying power bills as an alternative to rent holidays.

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Chief executive Bill Highet said, in hindsight, the advice had been poorly worded.

"We accept that our phrasing was inartful and that our intent was not clear. We apologise for the confusion this has caused and we have rephrased this content on our website."

Highet said that the company's 70 property managers were working hard to find solutions that best suited its landlords and tenants at this difficult time.

That included offering rental holidays and rental discounts to tenants, he said.

"A number of our landlords have taken this step where they could afford it and we have been more than happy to facilitate that."

Highet said, however, the majority of the company's clients did not own multiple properties and depended on the income of a single investment property.

"For those clients, rent continuity is crucial and we are encouraging them to work with their tenants to make sure they get all the [Government] help they are entitled to. This is in the interests of both tenants and landlords."

He said consistent with the Government's call to be kind it also sought to encourage landlords to find other ways to help their tenants through the crisis - including help with bills.

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Advocacy group Renters United earlier told the Herald of being contacted by landlords who were horrified at Property Brokers stance.

Organiser Anna Mooney said the company's approach didn't gel with the Government's call to be kind.

"It's really nice to actually see landlords helping out tenants with their payments and we really want to applaud all the landlords that are doing that, but frankly it's pretty appalling to see that some property managers are making it impossible for landlords to show that compassion to their tenants."

Mooney said one landlord was called by a tenant whose household had lost its main income and was now reliant on Work and Income payments.

"So, they really wished to give their tenant four weeks free rent, but when they went and approached the property managers, they discouraged them from doing that.

"They encouraged them to let them know about the Government subsidies and then asked them to instead provide them with food vouchers and helping out with their power bill."

The landlord was willing to continue paying the 10 per cent management fee.

Mooney said many businesses were taking a hit during the lockdown and Property Brokers should be facilitating rent holidays not discouraging them.

- RNZ

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