Property investor group disappointed in Rent Shop's 'threatening' letter to tenants

A group which represents landlords and property investors says a letter warning tenants of 'termination season' was "well-intentioned" but its "threatening tone" was unfortunate.

The email - sent out by The Rent Shop's Dunedin office - urged tenants to prioritise paying rent over celebrating Christmas, otherwise their property managers' Christmases would be ruined by having to evict them. 

"Christmas time is... known in property management circles as 'termination season', as so many people choose to use their rental payments for Christmas spending instead of ensuring that accommodation for them and their family remains top priority over this period," the email, obtained by Newshub, read. 

"We see so many tenants get behind, and then not be able to catch up. We then have a difficult time with the unfortunate job of having to remove and terminate these tenants from their properties. It is not pleasant at all, and we can only enjoy our Christmas less because of this."

Tenants who received the email were shocked, one telling Newshub The Rent Shop had been "onto-it" in the past, but had now revealed their "landlord-first attitude". 

Rent Shop CEO Alex Watson told Newshub it was wrong to use the phrase 'termination' and apologised, but one of the property managers who signed off on the email - Denise Robinson - told Stuff it was a common phrase used in the industry.

But the New Zealand Property Investors' Federation (NZPIF) begged to differ.

"We've never heard of the term 'termination season'," executive officer Sharon Cullwick told Newshub via email. 

"We think the letter was well-intentioned to inform their customers (tenants) of what is happening over the Christmas period, however the choice of words could have been better, without the threatening tone."

NZPIF members generally manage their own properties, she said, so "often have a different relationship to our tenants compared to a property manager who look after large portfolios - that's probably why all tenants received the letter".

"NZPIF offers a Landlord Education Programme for self-managing landlords which we encourage all owner-managers to complete," said Cullwick.

"We advocate for private providers of rental homes to show care and compassion for their tenants - this time of year is stressful for everyone."

Many people have had their incomes cut this year due to the pandemic recession, while property values have skyrocketed thanks to a lack of supply and cheap interest rates. 

"Many landlords actually have a mortgage on their investment property, and they need the rental income to service that mortgage," said Watson. "That's fundamentally a reminder as to why rent's being paid - many landlords can't actually afford for tenants not to pay their rent at any time of the year, let alone Christmas."