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Trust says notice claims are wrong

PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

A Masterton landlord is now speaking up, after allegations by two businesses saying they were only given 14 days’ notice to vacate their leased premises.

Masterton Trust Lands Trust leased buildings to Supercheap Auto and Hell Pizza in Masterton.

This week, Supercheap Auto announced its upcoming closure within two days, citing months of unsuccessful lease negotiations as the cause.

“This week, the Lands Trust requested our Supercheap Auto store close for trade immediately and vacate within 14 days,” a spokesperson for the Super Retail Group said.

“We understand the trust is within its rights to take this position. However, we are disappointed that, after a relationship spanning some 17 years, we’ve been unable to have a productive conversation about a short extension to the lease.”

Later, the former owner of Hell Pizza in Masterton came forward, alleging he had also been given 14 days’ notice to vacate after requesting a rent decrease due to car park facilities not being available.

Masterton Trust Lands Trust general manager Andrew Croskery disputed reports two commercial tenants were given only 14 days’ notice to vacate. PHOTO/FILE

Trust general manager Andrew Croskery declined to comment on the first story, citing commercial sensitivity. No response was received by the time of publication to requests for comment on the second article.

However, Croskery has since approached the Times-Age stating these accounts contained “errors that were presented as facts”.

“While the trust generally does not comment on commercial matters, it notes that there are always two sides to any story,” he said.

“MTLT manages a portfolio of approximately 90 commercial tenants. These are managed on a commercial basis to enable the trust to provide funding and grants to the people of Masterton, consistent with its act.”

Croskery disputed the reports that both tenants were given 14 days’ notice to vacate.

“There is no legal ability for the trust or any other landlord to unilaterally terminate a lease on 14 days’ notice or to require a current tenant to immediately cease trading. We have done neither.

“Even in circumstances where a tenant may be in breach of their lease, the trust would still need to provide a reasonable period for the tenant to meet its obligations before being able to end a lease – for example, for non-payment of rent, this period is currently 30 working days.”

Commercial leases had a fixed term and the expiry date was known from the lease start date, in most cases six years prior, Croskery said.

“Leading into a lease expiry, we typically work with tenants to negotiate new leases and seek a market rent and market-based lease terms. These negotiations rely on productive two-way communication and require both parties to be satisfied.”

The trust valued and worked closely with all its tenants, particularly in times of need, Croskery said, pointing to the rental abatements it provided in 2020 due to covid-19.

“Some leases had an abatement clause, whilst many did not. Despite these differences, the trust made the decision to support all of its tenants in a similar manner.”

He said feedback received from tenants last year reflected this, including a statement from Michelle’s Hair Studio owner Michelle Pike: “Lockdown was a stressful and financially tough time.

“The offer of temporary financial rent assistance kept my business afloat until we could open our doors to customers again. I’m grateful to the trust for its support during a really difficult time.”

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