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Chch tenants still sweating the small stuff

Christchurch property managers are getting calls from tenants to deal with mundane management problems like broken washing machines while in the midst of dealing with earthquake-stricken properties and shaken tenants.

By Maddy Milicich

Martin Evans of A1 Property and president of the NZ Property Investors Federation (NZPIF) says although they've stopped regular inspections of properties, the company is still getting calls about jammed gates and washing machines not spinning.

He says overall, tenants have been extremely good and A1 is still showing prospective tenants properties, while at the same time inspecting them for damage sustained in the earthquake.

After an emergency meeting of Independent Property Managers Association (IPMA) members in Christchurch on Monday, Evans says a plan has emerged for property managers to cope with the situation.

IPMA president Usha Ganda-Wilson says it comes down to prioritising calls coming in and dealing with the urgent issues first.

"Safety of tenants is the top priority and then looking at securing properties," she says.

Urgent maintenance includes half-toppled chimneys, burst hot water cylinders and broken glass, and property managers are being urged to keep landlords and tenants up-to-speed on what is being done urgently and what needs to be done at a later date.

After multiple calls from out-of-town landlords, A1 has been emailing all updates to landlords to keep them informed and also to keep staff able to focus on dealing with maintenance and tenant issues.

"We're keeping communications up with landlords so they don't call all the time," Evans says.

"We've also asked all Christchurch-based landlords to check on their own properties and then let us know what state it's in."

Ganda-Wilson says all landlords and property owners need to get official structural engineering reports, not leaving it up to property managers, as they are only able to visually assess properties and the maintenance needed.

Evans says structural reports will also ensure safety not only now but years down the track when other damage may appear.

"It will give landlords peace of mind," he says.

While urgent maintenance is top of the agenda, Evans says A1 is also keeping a close eye on rent arrears, in case tenants decide to take advantage of the chaos and skip on rent payments.

So far no one has tried to stop paying rent, despite the likes of water and sewerage systems not functioning, but Evans says most tenants want to stay put and keep their current houses if possible.

Evans hopes building repairs will start next week, after insurance claims have been submitted and rubble cleared away.

He doesn't see building insurance for landlords being a problem, as all the landlords with A1 have cover which is stipulated on the initial application forms, although suspects not many landlords have cover for loss of rental.

"Our hands are tied. It's a property investor's worst nightmare - the biggest risk of having, say, 10 properties in one city is a natural disaster but you never think one will happen."