An Auckland landlord has been left thousands of dollars out of pocket after a tenant asked for some rent relief before trashing the flat and leaving.
"He's always been nice, quiet - always paid the rent on time," owner James Mostert said.
"Very polite even helped around the hostel sometimes when we were working on stuff."
The tenant had been there for seven years, and James said he felt comfortable helping him with a rent holiday when he was in need.
However, after a couple of months the tenant started avoiding phone calls and emails.
Early one morning, CCTV footage caught the tenant leaving with packed bags, and the next day Mostert entered the unit.
"My jaw hit the ground, basically," Mostert said.
What once was a well-kept boarding unit was now a landslide of rubbish.
"Instantly I was just thinking how are we going to clean this up? How am I going to justify $10,000 of arrears?
"But what can you do?"
Penny Arthur of the Tenant Protection Association said this type of behaviour is common.
"This is an issue that always comes up, so it's not just in the post-Covid lockdown era," she said.
While there has not been a spike in disputes lodged with the Tenancy Tribunal, she said the biggest problem to come out of lockdown has been the miscommunication between tenant and landlord.
"In some cases, the misunderstanding of what was offered, what was accepted, and how long for - that's been the biggest issue."
Arthur says the best thing tenants can do to protect themselves is to make sure there is written detail around what kind of rent relief is being offered, and if there's an expectation it will be paid back over time.
If a landlord finds they do have a tenant owing rent money, her message is simple: get on top of it as soon as you can, because delays cause more harm than good to everyone involved.
"It's also making tenants more vulnerable because they're now in a position where they've got huge debts they can't actually pay back."
Brooke Stanley Pai of Auckland Action Against Poverty said similar problems have been occurring long before the pandemic.
"The reality is that people are really stressed out," she said.
"I think not having enough money to pay your rent, getting yourself into rent arrears on top of everything happening in peoples' lives, - it doesn't help peoples' situations and kind of drives the context for why people can't make these decisions for themselves."
Meanwhile, Mostert doubts the missed rent will ever be paid.
"The chances of getting it back are virtually none - but we will try and get an order from the [Tenancy] Tribunal and lodge something with the collection agency - just so it's been done.
"What we don't want is to do nothing and then he goes and does it to someone else - at least if his name's in the system, he tries to go somewhere else, it'll get picked up and he won't be able to scam someone else."