21 Sep 2020

Elliot Stables tenants' impasse with landlord over Covid rent

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 21 September 2020

An Auckland restaurant owner says Covid has pushed his business to the brink and he cannot afford to pay rent arrears demanded by his landlord.

A group of eateries at Elliot Stables in central Auckland are in a dispute with landlord Icon Group which has served many with notices seeking unpaid rent.

Icon Group said it had provided more than $600,000 in rent relief.

Besos Latinos owner Luis Cabrera told Nine to Noon that Covid-19 had ravaged his business.

He said, for example, it brought in about $4000 in total in a recent week but staff wages alone were 95 percent of that. 

Cabrera said during the first lockdown his landlord tried to get them to sign leases of up to six years - over and above the four years left on his current lease - in order to get a few months of rent relief.

He said in the end Icon gave the businesses April and May rent-free, and 50 percent off in June. 

But Cabrera said they expected him to pay normal rent for July and August but he could not afford to and by the end of this month he would owe $40,000 in arrears which he had to pay on top of his usual rent. 

He said there was no way he could pay this on his current income. 

"Basically it is just impossible."

Cabrera said his lawyers say the landlord has the law on their side, but this did not seem fair.

"If we're losing 50 or 60 percent of our income ... how on earth do they expect us to be able to pay 100 percent of the already high rent in the CBD.

"I think they need to, rather than try to back their decision on the law, they need to open their eyes and see the reality."

Cabrera said if he folded his business he would still be on the hook for rent for the four-and-a-half years left on his lease. 

The Icon Group said it has provided $675,000 in rent relief to Elliott Stables tenants.

It said it had also negotiated effectively with a number of tenants at Elliott Stables.