When John Marshall died on his bed, his property manager Quinovic took $320 in bond money to replace the mattress.
Marshall's daughter Ashleigh Marshall, who was living in Australia at the time, found out about her father's death when a Quinovic employee called to say she had found her father.
The 58-year-old died at his New Plymouth rental property in 2015 and it was some days before his body was found.
Quinovic told Marshall the landlord wanted to make a claim against the bond to replace the mattress and clean the apartment.
Marshall said she felt "absolutely steam rolled".
The property manager went ahead and used the bond without Marshall's permission so she took the case to the Tenancy Tribunal.
The tribunal ruled against Marshall because, while she had not agreed to the bond being used, she had not explicitly said she disapproved, either.
Tenancy Tribunal Consultancy director Lyla Atutahi said under the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords were not allowed to take bond money if damage was unintentional.
"If it's definitely not intentional, then it shouldn't be taken out of the bond," Atutahi said.
Quinovic encourages landlords to demand the maximum bond of four weeks from tenants and strongly recommends fixed-term tenancies over periodic tenancies.
"Given that tenants are being given the right to live in an asset worth hundreds of thousands of dollars you should always insist on taking the maximum bond possible of four weeks," its website says.
Quinovic, which claims to be New Zealand's largest private residential property group, with 34 franchises, also proudly states on its website it ensures it gets "maximum rent" for its clients.
Stuff has been inundated with renters, landlords and a former Quinovic employee, sharing Quinovic horror stories.
The property management franchise, which turns 30 this year, recently came under fire for a series of advertisements run by its franchisee in Te Aro, Wellington which were described as being degrading towards tenants.
A former Quinovic employee, who wanted to remain anonymous, said staff were trained to treat tenants "like garbage," and in their view, the company had no morals.
The former employee said staff were told tenants should be treated as a business.
"Our motto every morning was, 'We don't care about tenants, we work for the landlord'.
"For me, I just couldn't digest that."
She said Quinovic told staff to lock tenants into one year contracts and raise rents every six months.
"They were charging higher than market rents.
"The tenants couldn't really do anything because they were bound with a one year contract."
Quinovic also charged property managers fees, but these came straight out of the tenants' pockets, she said.
Quinovic chief operating officer Paul Chapman said fixed-term tenancies gave renters and landlords better assurance, and taking the maximum bond was "just good business practice", he said.
It provides a backstop if there are issues with the tenancy."
Quinovic's standard tenancy was 12 months. Legally, rent could be reviewed after six months and if there had been market movements in rent, a review was likely, he said.
Tennants who felt they were being charged above market rates could take the matter to the Tenancy Tribunal, he said.
During his time at Quinovic, he had never heard a motto about not caring for tenants, he said.
"While we do work for the owner we treat the tenant as a customer."
Jessica Wilson, head of research for consumer watchdog Consumer NZ, said some of Quinovic's practices had concerned Consumer NZ for some time.
Fixed-term tenancies gave landlords greater control and reduced the ability for renters to negotiate, particularly when it came to rent reviews, she said.
"You basically have to accept what you're offered or walk away, and in this market that's not really an option for renters," Wilson said.
Tenants wanting to get out of a fixed-term contract usually had to pay a break fee, she said.
"Often these additional fees won't be disclosed upfront and they can be quite sizeable. If it was any other market, these are the kinds of terms and conditions we would consider unfair."
The rise of property management companies over the past 20 years had impacted the price of rent because fees charged to landlords were passed onto tenants, she said.
"The arrival and growth of property management with no regulation, no oversight on the fees they charge, or no professional standards they have to meet, is significantly disadvantaging tenants who are in this market."
Consumer NZ wants the following practices used by property managers to be blacklisted:
* Charging fees to end a fixed-term tenancy early when the term of the tenancy hasn't been subject to negotiation
* Holding tenants' liable for the company's own expenses; for example marketing costs when a property had to be advertised after a lease was terminated
* Increasing rent under a fixed-term agreement
Many of the practices Consumer NZ deemed unfair were not covered by current tenancy laws, which meant the Tenancy Tribunal did not provide an effective forum for disputes to be resolved, she said.
"It's not a forum for holding property managers to any particular professional standard."
The most likely people to use the Tenancy Tribunal were landlords and property managers and the only rules they had to meet were the basic requirements set out in the Tenancy Act, Wilson said.
"It hasn't proved to be a very accessible avenue for tenants."
Quinovic attends its fair share of tribunal hearings – more than 100 since the start of the year.
Of those cases, it successfully extracted about $137,000 out of tenants, mostly for rent arrears.
Other reasons for cost recovery from tenants include cleaning, gardening, mowing the lawns, replacing keys and locks and, in one case, $54.56 for carpet stain removal.
Chapman said Quinovic would be carrying out an independent review of the Te Aro franchisee that undertook the "unauthorised" advertising campaign.
An independent property management expert would go through the franchisee's portfolio to see how it was being managed.
The director of the Te Aro franchise is Alex Khera.
While a property manager at the Te Aro franchisee, Khera has been involved in two cases that went before the Tenancy Tribunal in the past year for matters relating to damp and mouldy homes.
In one case, a property was in such poor condition the landlord was ordered to pay $5660.
In another case, the Tenancy Tribunal found a flat managed Khera was damp and mouldy, and the landlord had breached its obligations to the tenants.
A compensation order was made but neither the Tenancy Tribunal or Wellington District Court were able to provide Stuff with the order.
In a third case involving Khera, the landlord was ordered to pay compensation to tenants for unlawfully charging a letting fee.
"It's fair to say the service fell well short of what we would expect from our franchisees and this will be covered as part of our independent review," Chapman said.
Alex Khera did not respond to requests for comment.
Property Institute of New Zealand chief executive Ashley Church said the Quinovic Te Aro branch's advertising painted the tenant and landlord relationship as an adversarial one, which was unfortunate.
"It's usually a very good relationship," Church said.
Because Quinovic was a franchise system, there would be a varying degree of quality of service throughout the country, Church said.
"You're dealing with individuals in different locations and some of those people will be very good at what they do and have a very good approach to their business and others perhaps aren't quite so experienced."
Church said there was nothing wrong with fixed-term leases.
"It's a tool that's used quite effectively by a number of landlords."
And they were good for tenants in some cases, he said.
The property management industry was unregulated and did not have a consistent set of ethics and standards, Church said.
To help address this, the Property Institute of New Zealand announced plans last month to transform the residential property management sector by bringing the Independent Property Managers Association under the umbrella of the institute.
"We will essentially set a benchmark for the industry," Church said.
It was hoped that the move would significantly improve standards in the residential property management industry and would benefit tenants, he said.
By the end of this year Housing Minister Phil Twyford wants to introduce legislation to reform the Residential Tenancies Act, our main tenancy law.
The planned reforms include an end to letting fees that are charged to tenants, a requirement that rents can be raised only once a year instead of every six months, an end to no-reason terminations, and the required inclusion of a formula for how rent rises will be calculated on every tenancy agreement.
He is also interested in looking into whether practices like "rental bidding" can be abolished.
Last month Renters United called for a total reshaping of the power-balance between landlords and tenants, including scrapping fixed-term tenancies (except in special circumstances).
Quinovic founders and directors Ross and Lana Davey, were not available for comment.
The couple, who live in a $1.5 million home in Havelock North, own a large property portfolio with their names to 11 titles.
In a 2016 Quinovic ad Davey said its business model was "built for high cashflow and capital growth".
Landlords Stuff has spoken to have also expressed frustration with Quinovic.
May Meyer said Quinovic had managed her two central Auckland properties since she left the country in 2009.
She had not been happy with Quinovic for several years since they aggressively started pushing for routine methamphetamine testing, she said.
"This was against my clear instructions from the start that I don't want anything to do with it.
"To add insult to injury, they're also touting insurance cover for methamphetamine decontamination."
In May the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor Peter Gluckman released a report showing there was no real risk to humans from third-hand exposure to houses where methamphetamine has been consumed, meaning tens of thousands of homes had been needlessly tested and cleaned.
- with reporting assistance from Julie Iles