Tenants group calls for more help for renters
A mortgage holiday repayment scheme is being welcomed by landlords, but hitting all the wrong notes with some renters who want more relief measures of their own.
In a bid to ease financial pressure from COVID-19, the government announced yesterday that people with mortgages will get a six-month break from paying principal and interest.
Christchurch man Sean Raddock, who has four children to support and a temporary job at a factory, is among renters for whom the future isn't entirely certain.
He says there's a chance his job might be put on hold for the next four weeks, and he isn't quite sure how he will get by - so the news his landlord could be getting a break from their bills isn't warmly welcomed.
"I can understand what the government are trying to do. But at the end of the day it's not just those who have a mortgage that are struggling, it's everybody," he says.
His sentiment is echoed by another Auckland renter who is on a benefit and says she has been inundated with medical costs for herself and her daughter.
The woman, who asked not to have her name used, says the prospect of paying rent over the next four weeks is terrifying.
"Why are they having one rule for one set of people, and one rule for another set, just because their name is on the ownership of the house. It's not fair at all," she says.
Renters United spokesperson Anna Mooney says the priority for the next four weeks is making sure people are not evicted from their houses.
After the government announcement about mortgages, she says Renters United will like to see something that's going to help renters pay their rent.
That might mean a little more sympathy from landlords if their tenants can't quite make the rent on time or pay it in full, she says.
"Landlords and tenants should be having open conversations now about how they can work together. Whether that means landlords are helping out tenants, or reducing their rent - that would be really good."
Finance Minister Grant Robertson also encourages landlords and tenants to discuss how the mortgage holiday would work.
He told Morning Report the scheme is effectively a payment deferral.
He says the government had announced a freeze on rent increases during the lockdown period and put in protections so tenants could not be evicted during this time unless they were engaged in illegal behaviour.
Auckland landlord cuts tenant's rent
That is exactly what some landlords are doing, including that of Auckland renter Jess Keating, who was told via text yesterday her rent would be dropping by nearly 40 per cent for the next four weeks.
With two young children to support and her husband currently looking for work, the news was welcomed.
"I actually had a little cry, because it's really encouraging at a time like this. It's not just what it signifies in terms of literal money in your bank, it's more that ... kindness, and generosity of humans to each other, will help us get through this."
But Sean says some landlords will be happy to take full advantage of the scheme and still demand the same rent.
In the long run, he says, that would widen the gap between landlords and tenants.
"House prices are higher than they ever have been in this country.
"I'm 35 years old and still not even close to being able to afford a house yet and I know a lot of people in the same predicament.
"It's just going to exacerbate that a lot more, because we're going to have to spend a lot more money because we can't go to work, or have to dip into our potential house savings to try pay rent."
National Party leader Simon Bridges says rents should be paid but there should be no increases.
"If [renters] can't pay I would expect the government to be doing what it can to help them.
"Right now, for a landlord, is clearly not the right time to be putting up your rent in the situation New Zealand faces - we're all in this together."
Details about the mortgage holiday repayment scheme will be announced by individual banks in coming days.