COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

For general information on COVID-19 please refer to the Ministry of Health website or the Unite against Covid-19 website.

For further information, please view our Covid-19 Policies.

Last updated: 6 March 2021

These are general FAQ references. Your salesperson or property manager are available to answer further questions. This is not meant as legal advice and we recommend consulting your lawyer as required.

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General FAQs

What plans does Barfoot & Thompson have in place to manage the risk and impact of COVID-19?

We have a comprehensive response plan in place in relation to COVID-19 to help protect our people, clients, family, friends and communities. This covers all facets of our business including residential sales, property management, commercial, body corporate, projects and all of our support services. This plan has again come into effect and you will now see changes in how open homes, viewings, auctions and property inspections are managed according to the Ministry of Health and industry best practice.

What level of response are we currently at? 

On Sunday 7 March at 6.00am, the Auckland region moved to Alert Level 2 and the rest of the country (including Northland and the Waikato where we operate) moved to Alert Level 1. We have been following the Ministry of Health (MOH) guidelines and have also been proactive and implemented additional controls to what the MOH has advised. We are ahead of the curve with guidelines in place for managing day-to-day activities such as auctions and open homes. Barfoot & Thompson has also drafted a COVID-19 Safety Plan specific for Alert Level 2. The plan has been drafted in line with the Government requirements and REINZ Alert Level 2 guidelines.

Are our branches and the Support Centre open? 

All branches will be open under Alert Level 2 with appropriate safety guidelines in place for physical distancing and hand hygiene measures. The same distancing and hygiene measures will apply to the offices and activities such as auctions in the Support Centre at 34 Shortland St. 

A sample of some of our guidelines include:

  • Replacing paper-based documents with electronic ones
  • Instructing staff not come into the office if they are sick. If they have been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 in the last 14 days, they should be in self-isolation
  • Registration for all upon entrance to a branch or the Support Centre for contact tracing
  • We will have hand sanitiser available and we will be stepping up our cleaning services
  • Social distancing measures will be strictly adhered to within all of our buildings

What will happen as the situation evolves? 

Our strategy has been designed for swift response. In addition to protecting staff and customers, we have planned for the continuity of business across all divisions using a range of digital and other solutions. We are monitoring things closely and will continue to update our plans and practices as new official information and advice becomes available. We remain true to our company values and will continue to put the safety of our customers, people and community first.

Residential Sales, Rural and Lifestyle Sales 

Open homes and property viewings

How are open homes being managed now? 

Open homes can take place under Alert Level 2. There are guidelines which must be adhered to for open homes and private viewings. (See private viewings below for details.) We have strict guidelines and many protective measures in place that were developed by REINZ to keep our people and customers safe.

If you do not wish to hold an open home you can still opt to conduct private viewings or even virtual open homes or viewings. Speak to your salesperson about alternatives.

What about private viewings? 

Open homes and private viewings may take place provided contact tracing systems are in place and viewing can occur safely e.g. physical distancing (2m minimum between different bubbles) must be maintained at all times, hygiene etiquette is adhered to, hands sanitised when entering and exiting property, open home/viewing is contactless, etc). 

The number of people in a home at one time must be limited to ensure physical distancing (2m minimum between different bubbles) can be maintained at all times. This may mean staggering access to the property and requiring attendees to wait outside the property until prior attendees leave. 

We will retain registers for at least 28 days in case they are required by Worksafe or the Ministry of Health. At a glance, these are some of our ongoing health and safety measures:

  • In all cases, no more than 100 people may attend at any one time. Physical distancing of 2m must be maintained at all times between different bubbles.
  • A contact tracing register must be in place and a QR code created and posted at the entrance of any viewing.
  • Your salesperson will ask you to complete an online private viewing form.
  • Queue management processes/measures will be in place to ensure attendees waiting to enter maintain physical distancing.
  • If a property is tenanted, the consent of the tenant is required to hold an open home or private viewing. Tenant permission cannot be unreasonably withheld, as per the Residential Tenancies Act.
  • If possible, vendors/occupants/tenants will be asked to leave premises while viewing takes place.
  • The open home or private viewing to be contactless where possible. To enable this the salesperson will open any doors/cupboards before the open home/private viewing(s).
  • Where possible, attendees must pre-register electronically and provide COVID-19 information and hygiene expectations to attendees beforehand.

How many people can attend a private viewing? 

A maximum of two people from the attendee’s ‘extended bubble’ can attend a private viewing and maximum of one licensee. We will retain attendance registers for 28 days in case they are requested by Worksafe or the Ministry of Health.

Can the owners/tenants be present during a showing?

It is recommended that clients/occupants/tenants leave premises while a viewing takes place. 

How are we coordinating the entrance and touring of the property?

Before the showing commences, all attendees will be emailed COVID-19 information, including hygiene expectations. Attendees will be instructed to wait in their vehicles until the salesperson advises they can enter, to ensure that there is no contact between attendees. Shoes must be removed prior to entry and left outside the property. The salesperson will open the front door first and leave it open for the duration of the showing. No surfaces are to be touched. 

How will the showing be managed once we have entered the property?

Physical distancing of 2m is to be maintained at all times during the showing. Hand sanitiser will be available, where possible, for use by all attendees entering and exiting property and all private viewings will be kept brief.

What about vendors who have recently been unwell, returned from overseas or been in self-isolation? 

If any member of the household is in self-isolation or is unwell, viewings should not take place.

How will inspections be managed?

Inspections by professionals may take place. If a property is tenanted, the consent of the tenant is required. Tenant permission cannot be unreasonably withheld, per the Residential Tenancies Act. We will record contact details of any professional visiting the property and the date they attended, to assist with contact tracing and hold these records for a minimum of 28 days.

What about photographers, cleaners, home stagers and landscapers? May they enter a property?

All professionals related to these tasks may enter the premises as long as they follow distancing protocol, their presence is recorded and they should be instructed to follow hygiene practises. 

May I schedule viewings for clients who are out of the region?

Yes, regional travel is permitted during Level 2. 

How should contracts and other documentation be managed?

Agreements can be negotiated and executed in person, provided it can be done safely (e.g. physical distancing - 2m minimum can be maintained at all times, hygiene etiquette is adhered to, hands sanitised when entering and exiting property, open home is contactless, etc). Each party must use their own pens and there are still contactless methods available.

Are settlements and moving houses permitted during Level 2?

Travel between regions is now permitted and moving services are open for business.

Auctions

How are auctions being managed now? 

We are at Alert Level 2 as of 18 February and in-house auctions are permitted. In-house auctions will be available again from Friday 19 February. Please check the schedule for details. These are just some of the safety guidelines and procedures we will follow: 

  • Contact tracing for entrance to any Barfoot & Thompson building.
  • Seating and standing areas will have a physical distancing criteria of 2m at all times between different bubbles.
  • In all cases, no more than 100 people may attend an auction.
  • We will have hand sanitiser available for use before and after auction and will display necessary COVID-19 information and hygiene notices.
  • People at high risk of severe illness (older people and those with existing medical conditions) are encouraged to stay at home where possible and take additional precautions when leaving home.

Online auctions and phone bidding are still available for vendors who prefer not to, or are unable to attend in person.

Registration

All attendees to our auction venues will be required to register at the registration desk. 

What if I no longer want to sell by auction? 

There are other sale methods available including negotiation and tender. There is a comprehensive overview that you can send to customers that can be found here on our website

How many people can be present at a live in-house auction?

At this point, attendance will be limited to 100 people as per the governmental guidelines regarding gatherings but each bubble must be 2m apart. Should this change, we will adjust this accordingly.

Can vendors choose either in-room or online now? Can people still bid by phone? 

All auctions are now conducted online as a permanent supplement to our in-house auction service. Yes, there is the ability to bid by phone should you choose to do so as long as you have completed the appropriate form(s).

How will people know when their auction is scheduled?

We will run a predetermined number of auctions one after the other, then clearing the room, cleaning all surfaces and then inviting the next lots of bidders and vendors into the rooms. To know where the auctions are up to you can watch the streaming online in real time via the barfoot.co.nz website. Alternatively please contact your sales consultant who can advise you.

Once you have registered, if your auction is not in the predetermined set, you will be asked to leave the building. For those inside, spacing will be marked on the floor. We will also have spacing on the ground outside the building curving around to the left, looking out to Shortland Street undercover. We will have a number of staff assisting with ensuring that physical distancing is adhered to. 

How can I watch an auction online?

Our auctions are available live and in real time on our website at https://www.barfoot.co.nz/auctions-live. Anyone may watch including the general public.

How am I able to keep 2 metres from my salesperson at an auction and still have a private conversation? 

You will be able to sit next to your salesperson (part of your bubble) and communicate freely with them if both parties adhere to the health screening questions, you are not sick or have any Covid-19 symptoms, you are not required to self isolate, you have not been in contact with a confirmed/probable case or close contact in the past 14 days. Let your salesperson know if you are uncomfortable with this arrangement ahead of time. If you do have concerns, then you can always text each other while in the auction room to provide guidance.

May an interested party bid in person or via phone without registering for the online auction?

Absolutely! If you do not wish to use our online bidding platform (which does require registration), you can still view the auction live on our website and bid by phone. You will need to complete a telephone form prior. Please note, that all in-person attendees will be required to register their presence before entry to the auction room is permitted for the purposes of contact tracing. 

May vendors and salespeople use private auction conference rooms? 

Yes, these are still available for use and they will be cleaned regularly. 

Property Management - Landlords

Will properties continue to be marketed?

Yes, the marketing of rental properties can take place as usual at Level 2 through online channels and viewings are able to take place at Level 2. We have strict guidelines and many protective measures in place that were developed by REINZ and Barfoot and Thompson Health and Safety management to keep our people and customers safe.

What happens if a tenant tests positive for the virus?

Anyone who tests positive is expected to follow the Ministry of Health guidelines.

What happens if my property manager becomes ill?

As a large business, we have many resources and staff members that can cover should a fellow property manager fall ill. Our property managers can work from home. 

Can viewings for prospective tenants be held at Level 2?  

Viewings can be scheduled for vacant properties and properties with tenants as per our protocols at Level 2. Tenants can not unreasonably withhold the right to access the property. Prospective Tenants should still register to view the property through an online system which records their contact details (if needed for tracing purposes).   

Both property managers and tenants attending the viewing will be directed to continue to apply good cleanliness practices such as use of sanitiser before entering and on leaving the property. PPE is not compulsory for prospective tenants or staff but can be worn at their discretion. 

How is moving in and moving out handled at Level 2? 

Under Level 2, property managers will be able to complete an entry and exit inspection as usual. Good cleanliness will be observed at all times, including use of sanitiser.  Tenancy agreements can be signed physically or electronically if preferred and all of our branches have use of DocuSign. 

On move-in day, keys can be physically handed over to tenants personally.  Sanitising keys is at the branch’s discretion or at the request of the tenant(s). When moving out, the keys can be dropped at the branch or handed to the property manager personally as per our usual practices. 

Property Management - Tenants

May I schedule viewings at Level 2? 

Viewings can be scheduled for both vacant properties and properties with tenants per our protocols.  

Tenants will need to register to view a property through our online system which will record their contact details (if needed for tracing purposes). If they call a branch requesting a viewing they will be registered manually by the property manager through the online system. 

Both property managers and tenants attending a viewing will apply good cleanliness practices, such as use of sanitiser before entering and upon leaving the property. PPE is not compulsory for prospective tenants or staff but can be worn at their discretion.   

How will you track who has been/will be in my property for a viewing?

Prospective tenants must register to view your property through our online system which records contact details (if needed for tracing purposes). They will be asked to answer several questions before they are permitted to view the property such as whether they are sick or have been overseas. If they have not registered they will be turned away. QR codes should be used when possible.

How will you ensure that viewings are safe for me as a tenant?

Both property managers and tenants attending your viewing must limit touch of anything at the property, and apply social distancing as much as they can. Good cleanliness practices are essential such as use of sanitiser before entering and on leaving the property. 

Will we carry out inspections at Level 2, and what precautions are in place?

Routine inspections can recommence under Level 2. Tenants must give permission to enter the property, however they cannot withhold access unreasonably.  All entry and/or exit inspections can be carried out. The property manager doing the inspection will take health and safety precautions as appropriate and at their discretion, including good cleanliness practices such as using sanitiser.  The touching of surfaces should be avoided.

I want to move soon? How will entry and exit inspections work?

Please don’t be concerned. All entry and exit inspections can be carried out during Level 2. The property manager conducting the inspection will take all health and safety precautions as appropriate, including good cleanliness practices such as using sanitiser.

As a tenant, what do I do if someone in my household is required to self-isolate, or tests positive for the virus? 

We are asking that you contact your property manager immediately. Any disclosures will be treated in the strictest confidence. 

What if my property manager is off sick? 

We are a large business, we have many resources and staff members that can cover should your property manager fall ill. We currently have the capability to allow our property managers to work effectively full-time from home and you can contact them as needed.  

Will general repairs be conducted under Level 2? 

Maintenance works can be carried out, including all non-essential maintenance. Contractors are expected to keep records of the time, date and location of jobs for contract tracing purposes.

How can I pay my rent at a branch?

Cash and EFTPOS rent payments can be accepted at all branches under Level 2.

What are moving in and moving out expectations at Level 2? 

Under Level 2, property managers are able to complete an entry and exit inspection. Good cleanliness should be observed including use of sanitiser. Tenancy agreements can be signed physically or electronically if preferred via DocuSign. 

On move-in day, keys can be physically handed over to tenants. Keys will be sanitised at the branch’s discretion unless specifically requested. When moving out, keys can be handed to the property manager or dropped at a branch by tenants.

Body Corporate

What is the plan if a Body Corporate has a General or Committee meeting coming up?

Meetings should not be held in person.  While New Zealand legislation requires a body corporate to convene face-to-face Annual General Meetings (‘AGM’) within 15 months of the previous AGM, alternative arrangements will need to be made.

We are working with our clients on an individual basis regarding any upcoming meetings and options for these. In some cases, the meeting may be postponed or we will look to hold the meeting electronically, where practical, with owners to submit postal voting forms so we have their clear voting preferences, as well as a proxy form to achieve quorum. As the situation continues to change, we will keep our owners updated with as much notice as possible.

The Auckland District Law Society (‘ADLS’) is also currently consulting with MBIE seeking law changes for Bodies Corporate or at least confirmation that, where Bodies Corporate fail to hold an AGM within the 15-month time-frame or elect to use electronic mediums in the current pandemic, they would not be seen to be breaching the requirements of the Act. 

A bill was introduced before Parliament Tuesday 5 May that has passed its first and second reading to amend various Acts, including the UTA 2010. The bill proposes to amend the UTA to allow remote General meetings by video link or audio link from 25 March and through the period that the “Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice 2020” is in force, and possibly for longer. 

What is our recommendation for closing off common areas? 

Generally, most common areas such as lifts and stairs are required to be used by all owners and tenants. At this stage, we recommend increased cleaning in these areas regularly, along with the appropriate COVID-19 information displayed, and to make hand sanitiser readily available. Bodies Corporate should also monitor official guidance from the Government who have given advice for building managers and people living in apartments which can be found here.

If there are areas that could potentially have access restricted to facilitate the cleaning, or are of concern, this should be discussed on a case-by-case basis with the Building Manager, Committee and your Account Manager.

What is our recommendation for closing facilities such as playgrounds, spas, pools and the gym? 

These may be areas that residents have missed and enjoy using. We suggest the Committee and Building Managers follow Government and MoH guidelines, however, play it safe. Discuss reopening any facilities on a case-by-case basis with your Barfoot & Thompson Account Manager first; and only do so provided the complex can strictly manage these areas safely, and under COVID-19 protocols. We recommend that if any facilities are reopened, clear signage is used to remind people of the protocols instructed by Government and any additional by the Body Corporate.

Do we recommend not allowing deliveries such as groceries and meal or food delivery services?

No, these are essential supplies required by the residents. We recommend clear signage on the entrance requesting the delivery person to contact the recipient and either arrange to have the deliveries left somewhere safe or wait outside the entrance foyer doors, put down the parcel, and then owners collect the parcel once the courier is at a safe physical distance (at least two meters). If a resident is unwell or a vulnerable person and therefore cannot leave their apartment, have their family/support networks (or possibly a neighbour) help arrange for the delivery to be put outside their apartment's door. This will minimise the flow of people through the building.

What are our recommendations to focus on for cleaning?

Increased regular cleaning of common areas including all public touch points such as elevator buttons, door handles, hand railings, surfaces and mail rooms is still recommended.

Who covers the cost of additional cleaning in common areas?

The body corporate will need to cover the cost of any general additional cleaning requirements.

Are contractors returning to site to carry out standard maintenance under Level 3?

We recommend that contractors resuming services and requesting access to site, provide the Body Corporate with their updated Health and Safety Plan, including COVID-19 precautions and protocols that they have in place to access the site safely and carry out their work. Residents should not approach contractors and must maintain a minimum distance of 2m at all times. We ask that everyone remains patient as contractors resume services safely. Some contractors may not be able to return to site just yet. We note that some Bodies Corporate may incur additional charges, for example from their grounds contractors, for time and/or greenwaste, to bring their grounds back up to standard.

If there are unit repairs or planned renovations/improvements, that involve tradespeople being onsite - can this work proceed?

Yes, subject to following COVID-19 alert Level 2 safety restriction protocols and any additional building protocols put in place by the committee or building manager, for the safety of all residents. All contractors must sign in and out of the building and their information should be recorded..

Are owners allowed to prevent residents from having visitors and guests that have recently travelled overseas?

The Body Corporate does not have any powers to restrict behaviours. These can only be enforced by the government agencies responsible. People arriving from overseas are continuing to be placed in managed-isolation for 14 days, or quarantine if they are showing symptoms. It can be easy for people to feel a little panic and stress at this time and potentially overreact or have inaccurate facts. Hence, this is why we are calling for calm, patience, kindness and tolerant interaction. Care for your neighbours. If you have any serious concerns, contact your Barfoot & Thompson Account Manager, Building Manager or Committee for advice. For instances of people not following Government guidelines, please follow the reporting instructions from the MoH or NZ Police.

Should guests coming and going for visits to residents be monitored?

At Level 2 the Government has advised we can safely start to connect and socialise with close friends and family, with restricted gathering sizes (for now 10 people maximum). We encourage that Bodies Corporate request all visitors and contractors sign-in safely as they enter and depart the building. This is so we/they can respond appropriately should the Body Corporate be notified of someone, who has been in the building, and has subsequently contracted the virus. Government advice is that everybody should keep a daily record of their own movements and who they have been in contact with, to help with contract tracing. These records should be kept for a minimum of 28 days.

What do we recommend to residents in regards to elevator use and building entrances?

During Level 2,we still recommend that residents only share the elevator with those residing within their individual apartment. Play it safe and make sure to follow government guidelines. Wait for the next elevator if it is already occupied or where possible, take the stairs. We also recommend that residents/visitors be mindful not to linger for long periods of time in the common entrance foyers, as this is the entry/exit for many residents.

What obligation is there to notify residents about a positive case in the building?

It is not our responsibility to manage public health communications and the appropriate government agencies will manage communication in the event of a confirmed case. If a body corporate becomes aware of someone that has contracted the infection, the identity and specific location must be kept confidential and only disclosed to parties that need to know. Any concerns should be discussed on a case-by-case basis with the Building Manager, Committee and your Account Manager. 

What should an owner do if, due to the COVID-19 situation, their income is jeopardised and they cannot pay their body corporate levies?

Ask them to contact their Barfoot & Thompson Account Manager who will do their best to work with them on finding a solution with minimal impact to them.

Whom should residents call with questions?

They should contact their Barfoot & Thompson Account Manager, our office or their Building Manager should they have any questions. For COVID-19 health advice and information, contact the dedicated Healthline team (for free). The number is 0800 358 5453 (or for international SIMs +64 9 358 5453).

What if my Barfoot & Thompson point of contact is off sick?

Each Account Manager has an assistant who is very familiar with your complex, along with a team leader. They will both be available to assist with any matters. Our accounts and administration team will ensure the smooth operation of your complex continues regardless.

What is the most effective way to communicate developments and updates?

We recommend confirming the key points of contact for your complex, as well as clarifying the preferred channels of communication such as email, text or social media, so that people know which to check for current information.

Commercial Asset Management

A tenant has just advised us that their employee has tested positive for the virus.  What are notice and disclosure obligations as real estate owners and managers?

We do not manage public health communications. The appropriate government agencies will manage communication in the event of a confirmed case. 

What are their obligations as a landlord to modify regular cleaning and health and safety practices?

Either you or the landlord will need to engage their in-house cleaning team or hire a special service to deep clean and disinfect all common areas affected. These common areas include restrooms, elevators, lobbies, etc. Tenants and occupants to be advised of the steps taken and how things will proceed going forward.

Who is responsible to pay for the extra cleaning services?

All costs for deep cleaning should be a pass-through expense under most lease forms, including deep cleaning if handled for all tenants across the board - if that is a feasible approach for your building. If any cleaning is done only for some tenants, most leases require that tenant to pay for the “over-standard” services it receives.

Are there any common areas that they should close as a precaution?

Please follow MOH guidelines.

What should a business do if an employee has tested positive?  Should they operate business as usual after the person has been quarantined?

Please refer to MOH guidelines.

What about businesses with front line exposure who have been visited by a person who has tested positive?  What is a landlord’s obligation to inform people who may have been in contact?  

Some landlords are taking the proactive step of notifying others of the locations of the businesses visited by an affected individual prior to testing positive. (This can include workers at places such as the coffee bar, dry cleaners, dairies, restaurants, etc.)  This enables potentially exposed persons to seek testing if they so choose.

If someone in a building tests positive for the virus does the building need to close entirely?

If there are essential services operating then there is no need to close the entire building. We do recommend that open and shared spaces and amenities be closed until the virus threat has been resolved. At all times, follow  directions set by the government.

Of course extra and consistent cleaning of all common areas in buildings or offices needs to continue but do landlords need to do extra cleaning for tenants?

It depends, but probably not. The exact terms of each individual tenant’s lease will govern here. 

What landlords know, in general?

Building ownership and management have a general duty of care and a duty to safeguard its tenants and occupants which includes cleaning, disclosing positive tests and working with tenants and occupants to follow government guidelines for addressing the threats of this virus.

Do tenants have a right to stop paying their rent due to the virus?

No, in most cases, subject to lease provisions which are non-standard. We encourage open communication between tenants and landlords. 

Can owners be sued by tenants if a person in their building tests positive?

Every situation will vary. However, in general, an owner would need to be shown to have been negligent or acted intentionally or recklessly in causing the tenant to catch the virus and demonstrate that there is a direct and irrefutable link to the property.

What, if anything positive, can come from this?

Owners should view the COVID-19 outbreak as an opportunity to evaluate their policies and procedures to assure that they are prepared not just for the current outbreak, but also for future ones.

Who should clients contact with additional questions or concerns about this situation?

Please contact Tyrell Snelling at 021 555 039.

Projects

What happens if construction ceases on a building where people have purchased a unit? 

The individual construction company will have its own health and safety policy in regards to this (and they will vary) and this would be well outside our scope of control. Be assured, all parties will want construction to start ASAP once a safe work environment is established and we will do all we can do to help move the process along.

Will all Projects continue to be marketed as usual?

This will be determined on a case-by-case basis. We may stop marketing for a period if there is too much unrest and disruption. However, this will be something decided upon in cooperation and in consultation with our clients.  Showrooms are currently unavailable.

What happens now that the Projects office is closed?

We are available via phone or email and have remote access to all our business systems.  We are fully capable of conducting Zoom or Skype meetings as needed with our clients, colleagues, salespeople and customers. In short, we do not anticipate any disruption to our capacity at this time.