For general information on COVID-19 please refer to the Ministry of Health website.

29 April 2020

General 

These are general FAQ references. Your salesperson or property manager are available to answer further questions. This is not meant as legal advice and we recommend consulting your lawyer as required.

What plans does Barfoot & Thompson have in place to manage the risk and impact of COVID-19?
We have a comprehensive response plan in place in relation to COVID-19 to help protect our people, clients, family, friends and communities. This covers all facets of our business including residential sales, property management, commercial, body corporate, projects and all of our support services. This plan has come into effect and you will now see changes in how open homes, viewings, auctions and property inspections are managed.

What level of response are you at currently?
On Monday 27 April 11.59pm, New Zealand moved to Alert Level 3. As a company we have been following the Ministry of Health (MOH) guidelines. We have also been proactive and have implemented controls in addition to the MOH advice, so that we are ahead of the curve with guidelines for managing day-to-day activities, such as auctions and open homes. Barfoot & Thompson have also drafted a COVID-19 Safety Plan specific for Alert Level 3. The plan has been drafted in line with the Government requirements and REINZ Alert Level 3 guidelines.

Are branches and the Support Centre on Shortland Street open?
The Support Centre and branch staff are working remotely and all branches and the Support Centre on Shortland Street are closed to the public during Level 3. 

What will happen as the situation evolves?
Our strategy has been designed for swift response. In addition to protecting staff and customers, we have planned for the continuity of business across all divisions using a range of digital and other solutions. We are monitoring things closely and will continue to update our plans and practices as new official information and advice becomes available. We remain true to our company values and will continue to put the safety of our people, customers and community first.

Residential, Rural and Lifestyle Sales

Open homes and property viewings

How are Open Homes being managed now?
Open Homes cannot take place currently. Potential buyers are encouraged to view properties online or arrange a private viewing. 

What about private viewings?
Private viewings can take place but with restrictions. They are to be conducted by appointment only and with the consent of the vendor and/or property occupants/tenants. In accordance with the government’s guidelines there may only be a maximum of two (2) private viewings per day and there can only be one private viewing at a time. Viewings are to be spaced sufficiently apart to allow time for sanitising after each viewing, as required, and to ensure there is no contact between attendees. The listing salesperson will retain records of viewings in the event they are requested by Worksafe or Ministry of Health.

Where occupants are considered to be high risk, e.g. aged over 70 or those with pre-existing medical conditions, private viewings are being discouraged.

My home is currently on the market – what are my options?
By now, all vendors should have been contacted by their listing salesperson to discuss their options. You should also seek guidance from your lawyer on facilitating changes to your plans. We have just introduced our live Online Auction services that will supplement our traditional auctions. For more information on this safe and secure sales method, click here.

How will other pre-purchase inspections such as building reports be managed?
Pre-settlement inspections can happen in Level 3 but only with the purchaser and one other person within the same bubble. (Others can attend remotely via video app.) Inspections by professionals can only take place where the inspection is a condition of a Sale and Purchase agreement signed by the parties, and where the inspection cannot be carried out remotely. If a property is tenanted, the consent of the tenant is required. 

To assist with contact tracing, the listing agent will record contact details of any professional visiting the property and the date they attended. To ascertain whether chattels are in working order, they can only be touched by the inspector who should be wearing gloves, and they must be wiped down immediately with disinfectant provided by the salesperson. 

I am really interested in a property, but without open home viewings, what are my options?Private viewings are allowed but with specific conditions. Contact a salesperson to schedule a viewing if you are interested in a property. We also have a range of Digital Marketing tools to assist. Check the listing on our website. You will see high quality photos, floor plans, interactive tools and virtual tours. You may not travel outside of your region to view a property during Level 3 however you could enquire about a virtual viewing.

How do pre-settlement inspections work?
Pre-settlement inspections are allowed and yes, it makes sense that it would occur in the same manner as viewings, with vendor/tenants off property, anything touched to be sanitised etc. Up to two purchasers from the same bubble can view a property with the salesperson. We are waiting for clarification on building inspections. We will advise as soon as we gain further clarity.

Auctions

How are auctions being managed now?
We are now at Alert Level 3 as of Monday 27 April 11.59pm and in-house auctions are still not permitted. Instead, we have launched a safe and secure live online auction format. Find out more at barfoot.co.nz/onlineauctions

What are my options if I no longer want to sell by auction?
There are other sale methods available including by negotiation and tender. There is a comprehensive overview that can be foundhere on our website.


Property Management – Landlords

Will my property continue to be marketed?

Yes, the marketing of rental properties will continue. Viewings are currently permitted but limited to two per day and only two people from the same bubble plus the property manager.  

What happens if my tenant has tested positive for the virus?

Anyone who tests positive is expected to follow the Ministry of Health guidelines.

What happens to my insurance cover if regular inspections are not able to be completed?

Regular in-person inspections are not possible during Alert Level 3. We have spoken to some of our main insurance providers and they have confirmed that there will be some leniency on a case-by-case proven scenario. We urge you to check your individual policy or to get in touch with an insurance company to instate insurance. Note that there may be stand down periods. We are requesting that tenants take videos and photographs where possible to provide to insurance companies if required at a later stage. Your property manager will store these photos on your behalf.

What if my property manager gets sick?

As we are a large business, we have many resources and staff members that can cover should a fellow property manager fall ill. Our property managers are now working regular hours from home. We are committed and prepared to continue to provide property services throughout this pandemic.

My tenant is due to move out during the lockdown, are they allowed to stay in the house now? 

Yes, the tenant has the legal right to remain in the premises. For three months from 26 March 2020, tenancies can only be terminated under very limited circumstances. Any notices given by a landlord to terminate a tenancy prior to 26 March 2020 are not valid. If your tenant has given notice before that date, they are within their rights to withdraw it and stay in the property. If it was a fixed-term tenancy that was expiring during the lockdown, it will become periodic. Tenants can give notice to leave the property in accordance with usual requirements.  

The rules will continue until 26 June 2020. Although moving houses is permitted, tenants cannot be forced to move and are allowed to remain in the property except in very specific circumstances where termination is permitted.  

If a landlord gives a tenant a rent reduction, can they ask them to pay back the difference between the reduced rent and normal rent later on? 

If you agree to reduce a tenant’s rent for a set time period, then on the expiry of that date, the rent will revert to the normal rent amount which is payable under the tenancy agreement. You cannot ask your tenant to pay back the difference between the full rent and the reduced rent later on. After the rent reduction period expires, the return to the normal rent amount is not considered a rent increase.  

A payment plan requiring the tenant to pay back rent at a later date is possible and can be discussed with landlords. Please ask your property manager for advice and guidance.

We are encouraging landlords to consider temporary rent reductions if they are in a position to do so, even for a short time. This is in line with the government’s guidance that landlords should act reasonably towards tenants at this time if the tenant cannot afford to pay the full rent. 

Can I ask my tenant to leave if they are in rent arrears? 

Under the new rules, you can only apply to the Tribunal to terminate the tenancy if  the tenant has at least 60 days of arrears. The Tribunal can refuse to give an order requiring the tenants to leave if they have made reasonable endeavours to pay and if, after balancing the interests of the tenant and the landlord, they consider termination is not justified. We are working hard to direct tenants to WINZ and have had some success in obtaining payment for arrears through WINZ. 


Property Management -Tenants

Can I still attend a viewing? 
Viewings can be scheduled for vacant properties and properties with tenants provided they have given written permission for the viewing to take place, and consent to the property manager and prospective tenants entering the property to view. 

You must register to view, only a maximum of two viewing times can be scheduled per property per day. A maximum of two people from the same bubble can view a property at each time slot.    

You will need to register to view the property through our online system which records your contact details (if needed for tracing purposes). You will be asked to answer several questions before being accepted to view the property, such as whether you are sick or have been overseas.  

Both property managers and tenants attending the viewing must limit touch of anything at the property, and apply social distancing as much as they can. Good cleanliness practices are essential such as use of sanitiser before entering and on leaving the property. PPE is not compulsory for prospective tenants or staff but may be worn by staff at their discretion.  

What do I need to do if I or another member of my household tests positive for the virus?

Please follow the Ministry of Health guidelines. If you are happy to let your property manager know please do so. They will treat this information with the strictest confidence.

What happens if my property manager is off sick?

As we are a large business, we have many resources and staff members that can cover should a fellow property manager fall ill. We also have the capability to allow property managers to work from home. So, should your property manager fall ill, you will still be provided with property management services.

What should I do if I cannot meet my rental payment?  

Please contact your property manager as soon as possible and look at what help is available to you from workandincome.govt.nz. If you are not able to get assistance from WINZ to help pay your rent, your property manager will discuss any other options available to assist you at this time. We can discuss with the landlord whether they can offer a temporary rent reduction or a rent holiday or agree to a payment plan if your income has been affected by COVID-19 and you can’t pay your full rent. For example, if you can pay part of the rent payment each week, then a rent arrears payment plan might be possible. The options available in your case will depend on the landlord’s own financial position.    

Under the new rules, your tenancy cannot be terminated by the Tenancy Tribunal unless you have at least 60 days of arrears. The Tribunal will consider whether you have made reasonable endeavours to pay your arrears and whether termination of the tenancy is justified after balancing your interests and the landlord’s interests. It is important you talk to your property manager as soon as possible so steps can be taken to deal with arrears quickly and effectively.  

If my landlord gives me a rent reduction can they ask me to pay the difference between the reduced rent and normal rent at a later date? 

If your landlord has agreed to a temporary rent reduction for an agreed period of time e.g., four weeks, you are required to pay the reduced amount of rent for that time. When the agreed time period has ended, the rent will revert to the normal rent amount which is payable under your tenancy agreement. In this case, at the end of the agreed time period you will not need to pay the difference between the reduced rent and the full rent to the landlord. We are encouraging landlords to consider temporary rent reductions if they are in a position to do so, even for a short time. 

If your landlord cannot meet their mortgage obligations with a reduced rent being paid, they may be willing to assist you by allowing you to pay partial rent for a number of weeks, and pay the shortfall (between the partial rent and the full rent) at a later date in instalments via a payment plan. Talk to your property manager about whether this could work for you. The details of the payment plan will need to be set out in writing and agreed. This means you will still pay the full rent (as required by your tenancy agreement) but gives some flexibility by spreading the timing and amount of payments to help you manage at this time. 

Will general repairs still be conducted?

Health and safety works and emergency repairs will still continue. We will still organise contractors/tradespeople but tenants must stay in isolation in a different part of the property while they are on-site. Our contractors will be made aware of this on their work order and they must adhere to this protocol. Routine maintenance will not proceed during Alert Level 3.

How can I pay rent?

Some banks will still be able to take cash payments, however many are limiting the numbers of branches that are open and their hours. Also, some ATMs have deposit functions and credits can be made via transfer. For those tenants that do not use internet or telephone banking, our property managers will work with tenants to find alternative measures when required. 

What about rent increases?

The government has announced a freeze on rent increases for a minimum of six months from 26 March 2020. 

What if I am about to move in or out of a property?

Moving in and out of properties is permitted during Level 3. Note that although moving house is permitted, tenants cannot be forced to move and are allowed to remain in the property except in very specific circumstances where termination is permitted.       

My lease is due to end and I don’t want to sign on for another full year. What happens now?

Normal practices will apply – you should discuss and negotiate your term with your property manager. There is an option to renew on a monthly basis (a periodic tenancy) that we can discuss with the landlord.    

How are we managing tenancies coming to an end or new tenancies that are scheduled to start during lockdown?

Yes, the tenant has the legal right to remain in the premises. For three months from 26 March 2020, tenancies can only be terminated under very limited circumstances. Any notices given by the landlord prior 26 March 2020 to terminate a tenancy are not valid. If you have been given notice before that date, you are within your rights to withdraw it and stay in the property. If it was a fixed term tenancy that was expiring during the lockdown, it will become a periodic tenancy. Tenants can give notice to leave the property in accordance with usual requirements.  

The same rules continue to apply under Level 3 and until 26 June 2020.  Although moving house is permitted, tenants cannot be forced to move and are allowed to remain in the property except in very limited circumstances where termination is permitted.  

Body Corporate

What is the plan if we have a General or Committee meeting coming up?
Meetings cannot be held in person. While New Zealand legislation requires a body corporate to convene face-to-face Annual General Meetings (‘AGM’) within 15 months of the previous AGM, alternative arrangements will need to be made.  

We are working with our clients on an individual basis regarding any upcoming meetings and options for these. In some cases, the meeting may be postponed or we will look to hold the meeting electronically, where practical, with owners submitting postal voting forms so we have their clear voting preferences, as well as a proxy form to achieve quorum. As the situation continues to change, we will keep our owners updated with as much notice as possible.

The Auckland District Law Society (‘ADLS’) is also currently consulting with MBIE seeking law changes for Bodies Corporate or at least confirmation that, where Bodies Corporate fail to hold an AGM within the 15-month time-frame or elect to use electronic mediums in the current pandemic, they would not be seen to be breaching the requirements of the Act. 

What do you recommend for closing off common areas?
Generally, most common areas are required to be used by all owners and tenants. At this stage, we recommend increased cleaning of these areas along with appropriate COVID-19 information displayed, and if possible, hand sanitiser readily available. You should also monitor official guidance from the Ministry of Health. If there are areas that could potentially have access restricted to facilitate the cleaning, or are of concern, this should be discussed on a case-by-case basis with the Building Manager, Committee and your Account Manager.

What is our recommendation for closing facilities such as playgrounds, spas, pools and the gym?
We suggest the Committee and Building Managers follow MOH guidelines.

Should deliveries be managed or restricted?
No, these are essential supplies required by the residents. We recommend clear signage on the entrance requesting the delivery person to contact the recipient and arrange to have the deliveries left somewhere safe and that anyone entering the property register their contact details.

What is the recommended focus for cleaning?
If possible, regular cleaning of all public touch points including elevator buttons, door handles, hand railings, surfaces and mail rooms.

Who covers the cost of additional cleaning in common areas?The body corporate will need to cover the cost of any additional cleaning requirements.

Are residents allowed to prevent owners from having visitors and guests that have recently travelled overseas?
The body corporate does not have any powers to restrict behaviours. It can be easy for people to feel a little panic and stress at this time and potentially overreact or have inaccurate facts. Hence, this is why we are calling  for calm, patience, kindness and tolerant interaction. Care for your neighbours. If you have any serious concerns, contact your Barfoot & Thompson Account Manager, Building Manager or Committee for advice. For instances of people not following the guidelines please follow instructions from the Ministry of Health or NZ Police.

If there is a planned renovation or improvement that would involve tradespeople being onsite – can this work continue?
The Government has advised that construction and maintenance can recommence subject to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 protocols and safety restrictions. Ideally, only urgent and essential work should be carried out at this time. If an owner has a contractor coming to a site to carry out work in their unit, they should discuss this with their Building Manager or Barfoot & Thompson Account Manager first. All contractors must sign in and out of the building and their information should be recorded.

Are residents allowed to prevent owners from having visitors and guests that have recently travelled overseas?
The body corporate does not have any powers to restrict behaviours. These can only be enforced by the government agencies responsible. It can be easy for people to feel a little panic and stress at this time and potentially overreact or have inaccurate facts. Hence, this is why we are calling  for calm, patience, kindness and tolerant interaction. Care for your neighbours. If you have any serious concerns, contact your Barfoot & Thompson Account Manager, Building Manager or Committee for advice. For instances of people not following the guidelines please follow instructions from the Ministry of Health or NZ Police.

What if my Barfoot & Thompson point of contact is off sick?
Each Account Manager has an assistant who is very familiar with your complex, along with a team leader who will both be available to assist with any matters. Our accounts and administration team will ensure the smooth operation of your complex continues regardless.

What should happen with regard to in-unit repairs?
We recommend that only urgent and essential work is carried out during Level 3. All visitor information should be recorded. We are awaiting further advice on how this should be managed at Alert Level 2.

What is our legal obligation to inform owners about a positive case in the building?
It is not your responsibility to manage public health communications. The appropriate government agencies will manage communication in the event of a confirmed case. 

What should a resident do if, due to the COVID-19 virus, their income is jeopardised and they cannot pay their body corporate levies?

They should contact their Barfoot & Thompson Account Manager who will do their best to work with them on finding a solution with minimal impact to them.

Whom should residents call with questions?
They should contact their Barfoot & Thompson Account Manager, our Body Corporate division or their Building Manager should they have any questions. If they have any health concerns, then contact the Healthline.

Should we monitor guests visiting residents?
We are encouraging that they request all visitors and contractors sign-in as they enter and depart so we/they can respond appropriately should a visitor notify the Body Corporate that they have subsequently contracted the virus.

What is the most effective way to communicate developments and updates?
We recommend confirming the key points of contact for your complex, as well as clarifying the preferred channels of communication such as email, text or social media so that people know where to look for current information.

Commercial

A tenant has just advised us that their employee has tested positive for the virus.  As real estate owners and managers, what are our notice and disclosure obligations?
It is not your responsibility to manage public health communications. The appropriate government agencies will manage communication in the event of a confirmed case.

What if a tenant cannot meet their rental payment?
Provide them with the following information:

1) Check to see if you are eligible for any Government grants (wage subsidy, sole trader or small business) as these funds may assist with your cashflow.

2) You can approach your bank regarding a mortgage or loan payment deferral.

3) If you are still unable to pay rent, check the Deed of Lease. Standard Auckland District Law Society (ADLS) leases drafted after 2012 on a sixth edition form include a No Access clause (clause 27.5). This clause allows for a “fair proportion” of rent and operating expenses to cease to be charged in the case of an emergency and restricts them from accessing your tenancy. The “fair proportion” of rent and operating expenses is to be agreed upon between the tenant and landlord and may differ on a case-by-case basis depending on the landlord and depending on specific circumstances of the particular situation.

If you do not have the No Access clause in your lease you have limited legal remedies to receive any form of rent relief from your Landlord, however:

4) Even if you do not have a no access clause in your lease and you are unable to pay your rent, you should communicate with your landlord as soon as possible advising him of your specific situation. Advise the landlord of:

a) The impact on your cashflow as a result of the Alert 4 lockdown including your best guess at your income profile for the remainder of the financial year.

b) What efforts you have made to mitigate the situation through receiving cash flow assistance from the government and your bank

c) What measures you have made to reduce costs in your business

You should also state specifically what level of rent relief you are seeking and the time required to assist you through the pandemic.

If you do not have a no access clause or are seeking relief for a period longer than the lockdown, you should consider what concessions you may be prepared to provide the Landlord, in return for granting you additional relief such as, additional lease length, deferred rental payback and or increased future rent.

What are an owner’s obligations to modify regular cleaning and health and safety practices?
Either your Asset Manager or you will need to engage an in-house cleaning team or hire a special service to deep clean and disinfect all common areas. These common areas include restrooms, elevators, lobbies, etc. Tenants and occupants should be informed of the steps taken and how things will proceed.

Who is responsible to pay for the extra cleaning services?
All costs for deep cleaning should be a pass-through expense under most lease forms, including deep cleaning if handled for all tenants across the board – if that is a feasible approach for your building. If any cleaning is done only for some tenants, most leases require that tenant to pay for the “over-standard” services it receives.

Are there any common areas that they should close as a precaution?
Gyms, pools and workout areas should be closed.

What should a business do if an employee has tested positive? Should they operate business as usual after the person has been quarantined? 
Please refer to MOH guidelines.

If someone in a building tests positive for the virus, does the building need to close entirely?
We do recommend that open and shared spaces and amenities be closed until the virus threat has been resolved. At all times, follow directions set by the Government.

Of course extra and consistent cleaning of all common areas in buildings or offices needs to continue but do landlords need to do extra cleaning for tenants? 
It depends, but probably not. The exact terms of each individual tenant’s lease will govern here. 

Do landlords have an obligation to screen visitors in the lobby by asking questions or scanning temperatures?No, at least not yet. 

What should landlords know in general?
Building ownership and management have a general duty of care and a duty to safeguard its tenants and occupants which includes cleaning, disclosing positive tests and working with tenants and occupants to follow government guidelines for addressing the threats of this virus.

Do tenants have a right to stop paying their rent due to the virus?In most cases, no, subject to lease provisions which are non-standard. We encourage open communication between tenants and landlords if payment issues arise. 

Can owners be sued by tenants if a person in their building tests positive?
Every situation will vary. However, in general, an owner would need to be shown to have been negligent or acted intentionally or recklessly in causing a tenant to catch the virus and demonstrate that there is a direct and irrefutable link to the property.

What, if anything positive, can come from this?
Owners should view COVID-19 as an opportunity to evaluate their policies and procedures to ensure that they are prepared not just for the current situation, but also for any future outbreaks.

Who should clients contact with additional questions or concerns about this situation?Please contact Tyrell Snelling at 021 555 039.

Projects

What happens if construction ceases on a building where I have purchased a unit?
The individual construction company will have its own health and safety policy in regards to this (and they will vary) and this would be well outside our scope of control. Be assured, all parties will want construction to start ASAP once a safe work environment is established and we will do all we can do to help move the process along.

Will my settlement inspection continue as planned? 
We are seeking advice from REINZ, Government and the Law Society in relation to settlements. We will advise you as soon as this information is available. Please contact your lawyers for advice.

Will all Projects continue to be marketed as usual?
This will be determined on a case-by-case basis. We may stop marketing for a period if there is too much unrest and disruption. However, this will be something decided upon in cooperation and in consultation with our clients. Showrooms are currently unavailable.

What happens now that the Projects office is closed? 
We are available via phone or email and have remote access to all our business systems. We are fully capable of conducting Zoom or Skype meetings as needed with our clients, colleagues, salespeople and customers. In short, we do not anticipate any disruption to our capacity at this time.