28 May 2020

Commercial property tenants still waiting for Covid-19 relief

5:50 pm on 28 May 2020

Tenants in the commercial property market continue to wait for Covid-19 relief while government coalition partners Labour and New Zealand First hammer out a deal.

Auckland CBD Aerial view

Photo: 123rf

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters told RNZ negotiations are still underway and an announcement will be soon - if ministers can reach agreement.

The proposal is that landlords and tenants would have to negotiate lower rents if tenants could prove their losses were related to Covid-19.

But almost two months since the issue was first raised with the government - and a Cabinet paper was drawn up - no agreement has been reached.

Peters said he will not play a part in breaking the sanctity of contracts.

"We disagree from New Zealand First's point of view about the importance of the sanctity of contracts.

"We think it is paramount in our society and paramount to our business,'' he said.

"That said we do believe there is a way through this and we have a paper ready to go for discussion on it and we do hope to get agreement.''

Peters said the negotiations are about finding a solution to Covid-19, which is not an "overreaction''.

"Let's face it, if the sanctity of contract can be broken by a government, then where do we go to from there?

"If you've got a reason why you'd want to do that, or add provisions which should have been in the contracts in the first place, like the Auckland District Law Society, then that's the time to act,'' he said.

For more than a month Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been saying help is coming for tenants, but putting no timeline on when.

But Peters said tenants are wrong if they think politics is getting in the way of rent relief.

"We're out to ensure that the environment in which they hope to thrive is a sound business environment that's based on fundamental laws that are fair and responsible,'' Peters said.