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'It won't be the virus that takes me out': Tenant's shock as landlord flouts new rules

Newshub logoNewshub 26/03/2020 Jenna Lynch
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Stories of property managers threatening to raise rents or evict tenants during the COVID-19 lockdown are already emerging, despite the Government outlawing it, and the Prime Minister is asking for names.

On Thursday morning, Ron and Carolyn Harvey's tenancy manager told them their rent was going up, going directly against the Government's rent increase freeze as the country goes into a four-week lockdown period.

"It won't be the virus that takes me out - it'll be the landlord," Carol Harvey told Newshub. "My blood pressure went through the roof." 

Ron Harvey said he's "ropeable".

Jacinda Ardern et al. posing for the camera: Watch Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch's report. © Newshub Watch Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch's report.

Under a law passed on Wednesday, rent increases are banned for six months.

Newshub has seen a copy of the email sent to the Harveys this morning. It raises the rent by $60 and asks the tenants to sign a new agreement. The tenancy agreement gives March 23 as the start date - three days before the ban came into force. 

It goes on to say, "because of the lockdown and uncertain times we would like to offer a $60pw discount to keep your rent at the same level until the bathroom is complete".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is not having it. When Newshub informed her about the situation, she asked for the name of the landlord to be passed on.

"Ultimately, we are changing the law here to ensure people act compassionately and respond to the environment we are in," Ardern said.

After Newshub interviewed the Harveys, their property manager - who Newshub has chosen not to name - emailed again to apologise for the confusion and to say the rent will stay the same.

Pictures: Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak around the world

"I just feel afraid at the moment... trying to hold it together if you know what I mean," Carol Harvey said. "We're just trying to keep to the basics."

Unions Wellington says it has been told of landlords issuing eviction notices, increasing rent, or in one case a nurse being told she had to move out as soon as the lockdown ended.

"Either through breathtaking ignorance or just outright selfish greed, landlords are taking advantage of the situation and hurting vulnerable people," Unions Wellington's Alastair Reith told Newshub.

"It is obviously frustrating when we have a small number of cases where, for instance, tenants aren't being treated with the compassion that all New Zealanders would expect at this time."

And it's not just renters.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said on Thursday he's heard of employers who aren't passing on their Government wage subsidies to workers.

"I've made very clear that if we get the name of that business we will follow it up immediately." 

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