Landlord’s rep claims rental income wasn’t covering costs

In a sadly all too familiar scenario, a new landlord is evicting a block of long-term Queenstown renters to put their units into Airbnb-type visitor accommodation.

Tenants in 10 out of 12 one- and two-bed units at the top of Marina Dr have been given 90 days’ notice to leave, while overnight guests have started arriving in flats that have been vacated.

‘‘Everyone’s really shocked and quite stressed because it’s hard to find a place at the moment,’’ says one of the affected tenants, Chris Irwin, who’s lived in his unit for eight years.

‘‘I’m only aware of two who have found a place, everyone else hasn’t and some have left town.

‘‘These are all workers, and essential workers — there’s taxi drivers, courier drivers, hospitality staff, tradesmen.’’

Ironically, it’s understood this block, known as Silvercreek Frankton, and the one above, were purpose-built as workers’ accommodation.

Natalie Shang, who represents the new landlord, says six units, at this stage, are being converted into short-term accommodation.

She says that’s because they weren’t making any money from the long-term tenants due to repair costs and having to pay power and Wi-Fi bills.

‘‘In one month, in May, only electricity for three tenants cost over $1200.’’

How’s a landlord meant to survive, she asks.

“So we try to find a solution to cover the costs.”

Asked if she’s concerned at how hard it is for displaced tenants to find alternative accommodation, she replies, ‘‘that’s not our fault’’.

By converting units into short-stay accommodation, ‘‘we are thinking we can get some money to cover the cost’’.

‘‘After ski season, we might do some long-term again.’’

‘Alterations or renovations’ justification rebuked

Irwin says his previous landlord had told him there was no need to go to short-term rentals as it was ‘‘a perfectly profitable business’’ the way it was.

‘‘He admitted he had made a lot of money out of it.’’

He adds he also foots his own power bills.

Irwin says his biggest beef is he and other tenants were being given 90 days’ notice under section 51(2)(f) of the Residential Tenancies Act on the grounds ‘‘extensive alterations, refurbishment, repairs or redevelopment of the premises’’ were being carried out ‘‘and it would not be reasonably practical for the tenant to live there while the work is being done’’.

He believes that’s not a valid reason as he’s noticed once a unit’s been vacated, it’s being given a lick of paint over about two days and the odd bit of new furniture’s been moved in.

‘‘It’s basically the same unit as before, and hardly extensive alterations or renovations as required under the Act.

‘‘They’ve also had a spare unit … they could move people to for one or two days.’’

Irwin visited the council’s building department and was advised the area’s zoned low-density so it would be difficult to get 365 days-a-year visitor accommodation approved.

The landlord, he was told, could only let out the unit for short-term accommodation 90 days a year, and needed to register with the council before taking this course.

Subsequently, a council monitoring, enforcement and environmental officer wrote to him, confirming they’d not received any registration for
visitor accommodation.

The officer says he’d sent the property owners a formal letter requesting they undertake any one of four actions to ‘‘gain compliance’’, one of those being to cease operation and remove any online listing for visitor accommodation.

The owners needed to communicate their decision ‘‘to avoid escalated enforcement action’’.

Shang confirms they’ve received this letter and as a result have registered with council as a visitor accommodation operator.

‘‘We paid big money for this project.

‘‘If we want to do more days for short-term stay, we will consult with council.’’

MP, mayor disappointed

Both Queenstown-based National MP Joseph Mooney and mayor Glyn Lewers are disappointed to hear of more long-term rentals going into
short-term lets.

‘‘I feel for the individuals and families I’ve been told about, what I’ve been told is concerning, but I haven’t yet heard from a representative of the owners,’’ Mooney told Mountain Scene.

‘‘We obviously want more properties being rented out for long-term [accommodation], that’s important for the town, and although people do have the right to determine what happens with their properties, fundamentally we want more houses and more apartments being available for people to rent long-term in the district.’’

Mooney advises any tenant who’s unhappy with the process to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal, ‘‘which is fairly inexpensive’’.

Lewers adds: ‘‘It’s not the ultimate outcome we’re after as a council, ’cos obviously long-term rentals are in short supply.

“It certainly doesn’t help the people that want to live here long-term, and the businesses that need the workers to help make their businesses run.

“But then again, and you’ll probably hear it from this government, in particular, it’s all about property rights.’’

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