Advice

Surviving life under lockdown!

COVID-19 has turned all of our lives upside down and despite many people offering a viewpoint that it’s a great opportunity to recharge and reset we know that actually this is harder than it sounds when mixed with the reality of working from home, flatting or family life. Here are some ideas for activities, well-being & coping mechanisms which we thought could help. We’ve come up with a list of what we’ve found most beneficial in these turbulent times.

Establishing a routine

One of the first things we did when entering the lockdown was establish what our routine was – it doesn’t have to be anything too detailed – even just setting a time to check your emails or go for a walk each day. We’ve found it really alleviates lethargy and the boredom of not knowing what to do – if you’re working from home it also helps with that age-old issue of procrastination!

Entertainment – for you and those tiny humans you might live with

This has been a key factor to staying sane when confined to our homes – we’ve been trying to get inventive with this and these ideas could be a great way to stay in touch with friends, workmates and family. We’ve had weekly quizzes on Zoom, ‘achievement’ bingo cards and a step and meditation challenge – with many more in the works!

If you have have kids at home, here are our tips on how to keep the kids happy, relaxed and (hopefully) tired by bed time. There is a wealth of resources online and here are a few we have found;

  • Save the Children have come up with a fun (and educational) way of keeping your kids entertained. A range of celebrities have recorded a series of stories for the Instagram page #save with stories.
  • National Geographic has an incredible (and informative) kids site filled with reading, games and competitions with a useful ‘what is coronavirus’ article,
  • Oxford Owl is here to ‘help your children learn’ and caters to all age ranges – and comes with a free eBook library!
  • A few other cool ones we found are; Circletime – filled with interactive stories, family cooking videos and even yoga classes, ABCYA brings you educational games and My First Garden is where you and your kids can collaboratively learn gardening skills from scratch!

 

Health and well-being

Mental and physical health is one of the most important (and hardest) things to maintain during this period. Keeping fit is key – apps such as My Fitness Pal have step challenges you can use and comes with a one week free trial for the Premium feature you’ll need.  Les Mills is also doing free workouts every morning at 9am on TVNZ and are also available on demand.

It’s not only physical health that you need to maintain but mental. What we’ve found is that communication is key and if you’re feeling low or lonely to try and get in touch with a loved one to talk it through – even if it does have to be over Zoom! We’ve also discovered some amazing wellness apps that could help; WhatsUp? – a wellbeing app with tips on how to support yourself, as well as lots of emotional health support and an SOS line, Calm – a mindfulness app for meditation and sleep assistance and Daylio Journal where you can keep a private journal and select moods and activities to correspond. Great for creating and analysing your daily patterns to increase well-being and productivity.

Food is an integral part of health and can also be incredibly uplifting. Getting creative in the kitchen is a great way to spend the lockdown – you could take the time to really perfect those skills you’re lacking like poaching the perfect egg or nailing a medium rare steak. It’s also something the whole family can get involved in – famous New Zealand chef Josh Emett is doing an incredible ‘how to’ series on his Instagram page using limited ingredients in which you can regularly see his kids helping out and enjoying the results!

This is a great time to support small, New Zealand owned businesses in a time of need. SOS Café has been created and it’s an incredible way of supporting your local café or favourite restaurant. You simply buy a voucher and use them as soon as you’re able. It could potentially mitigate a lot of the terrible consequences that COVID-19 is going to have on the hospitality industry and keep your favourite barista making your coffee!

If you’re struggling to find some items or just want food delivered to your door we’ve found this comprehensive list of what’s still available over the lockdown period – https://delivereat.co.nz

Upskilling

This is an opportunity to upskill – there are a huge amount of online resources that could be tapped into; use Duolingo to start learning a new language, listen to podcasts from Oxford University to broaden your knowledge or even learn to code for free using The Code Academy!

You can also use this time to educate yourself to directly benefit your career and work on the essential tools you need in the workplace by studying topics like problem solving or leadership and management. LinkedIn Learning has a huge range of technical, creative and professional courses that are free or low cost – with a one month free trial with access to all courses.

As this is a trying time for everyone (especially the financial impact) you may already know about FastConnect  (If you're a tenant with us we would have suggested using them)– a utilities broker that can negotiate better deals on your behalf and potentially get you discounts. Seeing as we’re all in the house a little more it would help to minimise your bills and be on the best deal possible! You can phone them for free on 0800 88 55 99.

Kia Kaha New Zealand!


Top 7 Profit Killers for Rental Property Landlords

Profit killing mistakes that are easily rectifiable! No one goes into business to lose money and your rental property should be treated just like any business! Its there to make you money and you should do everything possible to make sure the investment is as profitable as it should be.

Here are the 7 profit eating mistakes that landlords make when privately managing their rental investment properties!

#1 IGNORING MAINTENANCE ISSUES

Not addressing rental property maintenance issues quickly can quickly lead to much bigger problems down the road. What may have started out as a small leak that goes unfixed could become a huge problem one day when the unit is flooded or the floor falls through. In the event of a tenant turnover, you may want to take advantage of the vacant property and perform maintenance without the hassle of scheduling conflicts and bothering any current tenants. A rental unit that’s in good condition when you’re looking for a new tenant is much more likely to attract a better quality renter and more rent per week.

Regular & scheduled rental property inspections can help prevent a lot of these issues, as well as keeping the lines of communication open. A good landlord-tenant relationship is communicative and cooperative. Maintenance & repairs can be inconvenient for a tenant, but if they feel that the landlord will be respectful of their time and get repairs done quickly, they’ll be more likely to report a leaking tap or an electrical issue (a possible fire hazard). Staying on top of maintenance also indicates to a tenant the type of condition you expect the property to be returned in. After all, if you don’t care about the property, why should they?

With all of that said, you’ll want to be efficient in completing renovations and repairs. Taking too long to get the unit ready can cause you to miss out on rental income which can add to your turnover costs. You also don’t want to over-improve the property above the market rental rate, because it’s not likely that you will get a return on this investment.

 

#2 WEAK TENANT SCREENING

In the interest of turning over your property quickly, you may be tempted to select one of the first tenants that applies, but this is a mistake that can cost you much more in the long run. Proper tenant screening offers many benefits.  It helps you ensure you have a renter in your property that will pay their rent and be a reliable & respectful tenant.

Proper tenant selection including full credit checks saves you time, energy, and money. Spending a little time and effort on screening tenants now could prevent costly evictions later. It’s hard to put a price on a respectful, stress-free tenant that pays on time and takes care of the property.

 

#3 NOT KNOWING THE RULES AROUND BONDS

Requesting, processing & lodging a bond is standard operating procedure for most landlords but many landlords don’t give it much thought outside of how much to collect. That’s a common mistake with rental properties and can become costly.

There are 3 distinct areas to pay attention to regarding the tenants deposit:  figuring out how much to collect, abiding by the Tenancy Act and knowing what the bond covers (Especially important if you are trying to recover losses at the end of the tenancy).

It is important to collect a reasonable amount of money for a deposit (In NZ this is 3-4 weeks rent). The deposit can serve be an effective tool to deter tenant neglect or breach of contract with the rental agreement.

It is important to be aware that there are laws regulating the collection and lodgement of bonds. Tenancy Services details all the rules surrounding what you need to do and what your legal requirements are. See here

 

#4  KEEPING SLOPPY PAPERWORK

A common mistake that landlords with rental properties make when dealing with bonds brings us to another pitfall: keeping sloppy documentation. Like any business, property investors must pay attention to the paperwork. A paper trail is particularly important when dealing with the finances, from tracking expenses & repairs to paying taxes. In particular, improper payment of taxes can lead to all sorts of problems such as audits or penalties. Conversely, a landlord who keeps meticulous financial records on expenses will find they spend less time worrying about the profitability of their investment.

The tenancy agreement is probably the most important piece of paperwork, as it is a legally binding document between a landlord and tenant. Many landlords, however, use a generic agreement without paying attention to the details. Some of the stock standard clauses may not be relevant to you and could end up hurting your interests down the road & in the same way your property may require that you add special clauses to protect your interests.

A landlord should keep a file on each tenant that includes references, contact information, bond details, etc. Basically, anything that has to do with that tenant before, during and after tenancy including inspection reports and high resolution photos to back them up.

 

#5 NOT CONDUCTING A MOVE-IN AND MOVE-OUT INSPECTION

Ignoring or completing insufficient move-in/move-out inspections is another common mistake landlords with rental properties can easily avoid. This one is also related to keeping proper documentation and paying attention to the bond. Simply put, if you don’t properly document the condition of the property before the tenant moves in, it becomes quite difficult to prove that he or she caused any damage found after moving out. It becomes a “he said, she said” situation.

A comprehensive rental property inspection can help protect the landlord’s investment and clarify expectations with the tenant. Every damaged item, scratch on the hardwood floor or scuff on the wall should be noted in a report, along with photographs. Then put this report with your tenant file. A move-out inspection should be done, as well. Proper inspection documentation will go a long way to helping a landlord if he or she needs claim against the bond for repairs.

 

#6 INVESTING IN UPGRADES THAT DON’T ADD VALUE

It’s a good idea to keep your rental updated in order to attract quality tenants, but some landlords spend a great deal of money on a home upgrades that aren’t valuable to tenants. By researching the top amenities and features tenants want, you can avoid sinking a lot of money into an undesirable upgrade.

Improvements should be thought out carefully. The kitchen is a good target to upgrade along with appliances to attract higher-paying renters, as it often serves as the hub of the household. But landlords should avoid doing fancy, customized designs that appeal to their own aesthetics. Spaces should be utilitarian. Rather than trying to convert a small, awkward nook into a wine cellar because its something you may want, think about installing a seperate laundry space or butlers pantry, a far more desirable upgrade.

 

#7 BEING THE GOOD GUY

There are ways to be a great landlord and still run a profitable enterprise without it hurting your yield. Renting property is a business with financial and legal consequences. A landlord should act courteously, professionally and provide good customer service but this doesn’t mean you never increase the rent.  The problems come because it’s easy to sympathise with tenants and let their problems become your problems, and have it interfere with your business goals, especially when it comes to collecting rent on time and increasing the rent on a regular basis as the market grows.

Establish clear policies and stick to the rent due & review dates. A one-week lapse in rent can easily turn into two, meaning loss in income before a landlord can even begin a costly and time consuming eviction process. As always, keep meticulous records (see above). And, finally, do not accept partial payments, as this can hinder any eviction or recovery options you may have had.

The bottom line when interacting with tenants: Be personable but don’t make it personal.

 

Conclusion

In the end, the tenant screening & selection process is the most important way you can protect your investment property. Presenting the property the best you possibly can, advertising it at current market rent is Step 1. Step 2 is to take your time to assess candidates then doing all possible checks to confirm their ability to pay rent, keep the home clean and tidy and communicate in a professional and fair manner which will mean less money lost during tenant turnovers, and more money in your pocket. Do regular inspections, keep accurate records, be polite & professional whilst respecting your tenants space and finally always remember this is a business so be personable by don’t make it personal. 

 

If this sounds all too hard we’d suggest you employ qualified, professional property managers who can manage this business investment for you making sure to keep your investment a profitable venture.


Bond Refund Process

At the end of the tenancy, landlords and tenants need to complete a bond refund form whether it is to return the bond to tenants in full, or in part.

On receiving a bond from a tenant the landlord must lodge it within 23 working days. The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 Section 19.1(B). Duties of landlord on receipt of bond: The landlord shall, within 23 working days after the payment is made, forward the amount received to the chief executive, together with a statement of particulars in the approved form signed by the landlord and the tenant.

 

If the parties agree

If the tenant and the landlord agree on how the bond is to be split, they should fill out a bond refund form. Once everyone signs the form, it should be emailed to [email protected].

If you have more than two tenants, an additional tenants bond refund form should also be completed

Bond refunds are usually processed within ten working days.

Overpayments of rent
Section 31 of the Act states that upon the termination of the tenancy, the rent should be apportioned accordingly and any overpayment of rent shall be paid to the tenant immediately.

If the parties don't agree

If the tenants and the landlord do not agree on how the bond is to be split, any party can fill out a bond refund form.

The bond refund form without a signature of the other party can still be sent to Tenancy Services by emailing it to [email protected].

When such a form is received, the Tenancy Services will contact the other party seeking their approval to pay the bond. If the other party agrees to the amounts claimed, then proceed with the refund.

If they can't agree, the bond will be placed into dispute. It will only be refunded on receipt of a fully completed bond refund form or by a Mediator's Order or by order of the Tenancy Tribunal.

Where there is a dispute, it's best to ask for a mediator to help reach an agreement. If this doesn't work, either party can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to claim part of the bond.

If the bond isn't claimed

If bond remains unclaimed for six years after the tenancy ends, the bond becomes the property of the Crown.


If you ever in doubt about the bond refund process, want to check what can be claimed, or need help with anything tenancy related call Tenancy Services directly on 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).


Bonds - Rights & Responsibilities

Rental bonds are a typical part of a new tenancy which follow some strict rules that all landlords and tenants should understand.

What is bond?

Bond is the money that landlords can ask for to use as security when a new tenancy starts. This money is held by Tenancy Services for the duration of the tenancy. If any careless or intentional damage to the property occurs during a tenancy, or if there is unpaid rent the landlord can use the bond to cover these costs. If a tenant leaves the property in reasonable condition and has paid their rent in full they can expect to have their bond refunded at the end of their tenancy.

How much bond is charged?

The maximum amount of bond that a landlord can charge is the equivalent of 4 weeks’ rent. A landlord can choose to charge less than 4 weeks’ bond at their discretion. For example, landlords may decide that a full 4 weeks’ bond is not necessary, or it may be beneficial to charge a lesser bond in a bad rental market in order to attract more tenants.

Can you charge extra bond for pets?

Charging extra bond for pets is illegal in New Zealand. There are other things that can be done to make you feel more comfortable renting to tenants with pets.

Lodging bond

If you collect bond you must lodge it with Tenancy Services within 23 days of receipt as it is illegal not to lodge. If you’re a Quinovic customer we lodge the bond for you, so you have one less task to worry about.

Why should you collect bond?

By collecting bond you are building in a sense of security to your tenancy. While we all hope to have perfect tenants who leave the property exactly as they found it, there are occasions when damages extend beyond normal wear and tear which demands repairs.

Refunding or withholding bond

If everything is in order at the end of the tenancy the landlord should fill out a bond refund form with Tenancy Services to process. Bonds are typically refunded within 5 working days of Tenancy Services receiving a completed refund form which is signed by the landlord and tenants.

If a tenant has unpaid rent or intentional or careless damage at the end of their tenancy, the landlord can withhold part or all of the bond.

Dealing with disputes

If the landlord and tenant can’t agree on the bond refund amount, either party can take the matter to the Tenancy Tribunal. A mediator can help the landlord and tenant reach an agreement, or if that fails, the case will go to a hearing in the Tribunal. Cases are usually heard by the Tribunal within 20 working days, although this timeframe can extend during especially busy periods.

Preventing problems with bond

To help minimize disputes, the landlord and tenant should conduct an initial inspection and sign a property inspection report at the start of the tenancy. This can be used at the end of the tenancy to clearly show any damage that occured over the tenancy period. Inspections should continue throughout the tenancy to track the progression of any damage, and a final inspection should be conducted once the tenant moves out. Having these records should help to prevent any problems with refunding the bond.

Quinovic Mt Eden starts each tenancy with a fresh chattels inspection which covers every inch of the home. We photograph and note all wear and tear or damage thoroughly then re-inspect the property within the first month of the new tenancy and every 3 months thereafter. This allows us to have detailed proof of condition for both the landlords and tenants benefit and to reduce complications at the end of the tenancy if issues are identified or raised by either party.