Property Managers-The Parasites Inside the Rat
An anarchist take on the property managers infesting the rental market
Someone described property managers as the tapeworm in a rat, and it is very apt. The rat being the landlord, the repulsive vermin feeding off others, and the tapeworm getting fat off both the tenant, that feeds the landlord, and the landlord themselves. On average property managers charge the landlord fee between 7.5 and 8.5 per cent of the rent, as well as fees for other services such as advertising the property, or doing credit checks.
Property managers have a deservedly poor reputation in New Zealand. A consumer.org.nz study in 2018 found that tenants who dealt with a property manager were much more likely to report their home lacked adequate heating and had problems with persistent mould. The survey also found that, compared with private landlords, property managers were also more likely to delay getting repairs done; Forty-two percent of tenants who had to deal with a property manager said they had made requests for repairs but were kept waiting for a response. They were also more likely to worry about the blowback if they complained, fearing they’d be given notice or stung with a rent increase. Overall, just 35% rated their property manager’s service highly.
Peruse any newspaper or news site, or the Tenancy tribunal decisions and there will be stories of property managers behaving badly. Often these will involve retaining the bond due to “damage” or cleaning costs, even charging for light bulbs. If people do complain there are many instances where the tenant won a tribunal hearing because the property manager didn’t come to the hearing. This means they tied up the tenant’s bond and made them take time off work for a case that they couldn’t be bothered showing up to argue.
Often the property manager will fight over small amounts because it is worth their while. If a property manager can get nine tenants out of 10 to agree to an unreasonable demand for $100 - and many do just pay up and move on - it’s worth their effort to go to the Tribunal for the 10th tenant, even when they lose, and it sends a message that they’re willing to pursue such petty actions as a warning to future tenants who may wish to complain about unfair charges. Also, if you come across as a difficult tenant you may well end up on unofficial blacklists, the proof of which has recently come to light with the privacy commissioner investigating the existence of private Facebook groups where tenants who have stuck up for their rights see their names swapped between landlords and property managers, making it difficult to get future rentals.
As a tenant, all you need to do is leave a property “reasonably clean and tidy”. If a landlord wants it to be deep cleaned for the next tenant, then they should fund that themselves, not use a property manager to literally steal it from the outgoing tenant.
A Spinoff article in 2019 entitled “How I fought my property manager and won” detailed how you can stop this happening to you.
“When your landlord demands a cleaning fee, or a carpet cleaning fee, or any other fee that you don’t feel is justified at the end of a tenancy, say no. Your email to them doesn’t need to be any more than two letters: “no”. Don’t explain yourself. Don’t write a sermon. Don’t respond to their emotive pleas. Just say no.
Then they’ll drop the fee down by a significant amount, to make you feel like you’re getting a deal. Say no to that. Then they’ll drop the price even lower. You know what to do – say no again.
They’ll say that they’re going to take you to Tribunal. Tell them that that’s fine, and you look forward to it. At the same time, ask them to release the not-in-dispute portion of your bond. When they inevitably say no, file a claim of your own to get it back. When you win that claim, they’ll have to refund you your $20 fee.
And then go to your hearing. If you left the place reasonably clean and tidy, you’ll almost certainly win. If you didn’t, you’ll be no worse off than you would have been had you agreed to the property manager’s offer. And in the meantime, your property manager had to spend a pretty significant chunk of time arguing over just a few hours of their hourly rate. The main cost of this is that you’ll have to wait a while for your bond. But if you have the resources to do this, you should! Not for you, but for the thousands of people who don’t have the money to weather this fight. By going to Tribunal, you’re making it more expensive for property managers to shake tenants down at the end of a tenancy. If enough tenants stick up for themselves, property managers won’t be able to justify these small-scale shakedowns.”
Of all the property managers out there one stands out as the very worst. Search for Quinovic on the New Zealand sub of Reddit to see the horror stories. Just recently they made the news for charging extortionate fees for reference checks, with one person saying they were charged a $287.50 fee for running a reference check. The Citizens Advice Bureau in Wellington said the charge seemed to be a “letting fee in disguise”. Letting fees were banned in December 2018, and it seems Quinovic are simply recouping the cost in other ways.
AWSM have had their own run-in with Quinovic. A few months after we reposted a Reddit post on Facebook, where someone described Quinovic as the scum of the earth, and mentioned a Quinovic property manager by name, we got an irate email from someone telling us they are going to take us to court, and they have reported us to Netsafe, the police, and the media for hate speech. Not too sure how many of those were contacted by her but Netsafe did get in touch with us asking us to remove the persons name as she had suffered great distress. We did agree to this replacing the letters of the name with x’s but leaving the post up (search our Facebook page for Quinovic to see it). This of course raises the question are Quinovic and their employees using Netsafe to sanitise the internet of any bad references to Quinovic and are Netsafe being unwitting dupes?
It is important to fight your property manager if you think they’re treating you badly or wrongly, learn your rights and challenge them every step of the way. If they try to charge you for cleaning at the end of the tenancy, tell them you won’t be paying their fees. They will probably pull out every stop to try to get you to pay, but ignore it all. Continuously say no, make them take you to Tribunal if you can afford to wait for your bond. Use social media to let everyone know about their wrongdoings. You aren’t just doing it for yourself. By making the property manager’s life more difficult you are helping every other renter in the country, and helping to get rid of the parasite in the rat.