Both renters and landlords impacted by COVID-19 are receiving some relief from a new support package announced by the NSW Government to help them through the current lockdown.
If you are a residential tenant who has lost 25 percent or more of your income due to the lockdown, you should negotiate a reduced rent with the landlord.
An eviction moratorium until September 30 protects tenants from being terminated due to rent arrears where the tenant’s income has reduced by more than 25 percent.
A landlord can only apply for eviction if they show that they’ve gone through the rent negotiation process with NSW Fair Trading in good faith, and that their eviction request is fair and reasonable.
Residential landlords who reduce the rent for a tenant impacted by the lockdown, can apply for a grant of up to $1,500 or a reduction in land tax.
The land tax relief will be equal to the value of rent reductions provided by landlords to financially distressed tenants, up to 100 percent of the 2021 land tax year liability.
Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, said the new package would, for the first time, provide a rental subsidy grant of up to $1,500 for landlords who offer rent reductions to COVID-19 impacted tenants.
“These measures hinge on landlords and tenants working together through this challenging period and we encourage both parties to enter negotiations in good faith,” he said.
Manager of the Central Coast Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service (CCTAAS) in Wyong, Sidonie Shaw, said the situation for tenants on the Coast was very difficult.
“The current vacancy rate is 0.6 percent and issues such as lack of genuine affordable housing and rent bidding are causing huge issues for tenants looking for properties to rent,” she said.
“We have seen a marked increase in the rents payable on the Coast and the increase of tenants migrating from Sydney who can afford to pay higher rents is pushing locals out of the market.
“We have stories of tenants receiving rent increases of up to $200 per week.
“We also have stories of tenants who have been looking for almost six months and more to find something suitable to rent.
“Families are living in tents or sharing homes, putting enormous pressure on community services supporting those who are searching for affordable accommodation.”
Shaw said that there were a number of variables to be considered in assessing whether the NSW Government’s Covid support packages went far enough to be of assistance, such as the rent that the tenant was paying, how long the lockdown would last, and the income of the tenants.
“The payment of up to $600 for those that have lost more than 20 hours of work a week will certainly go some way to help with paying the rent, utilities and expenses,” she said.
“This is an improvement on the last financial package as it is a payment direct to landlords if they have accepted a reduced rent from their tenants, rather than a reduction in their land tax.
“However, if a tenant is paying $800 per week and has lost income, then the $1,500 is not going to last very long.
“It also relies heavily on a good landlord/tenant relationship and the payments are not available to everyone who is renting, such as those on temporary or protection visas.”
Shaw said that while the eviction moratorium protected renters who had lost income because of Covid, it didn’t protect tenants from any other form of termination, such as where the property was sold, the end of a fixed term agreement or a No Grounds termination.
“The moratorium perhaps should have gone further to protect tenants during the current health crisis.
“Giving tenants a safe and secure home during a pandemic is something that should be high on everyone’s priorities,” Shaw said.
CCTAAS has operated on the Central Coast for 15 years as a self-incorporated, not-for-profit organisation managed by a volunteer committee.
All staff come from a background of advocacy and mediation, through experience and training, and will advocate for tenants with their landlords, residential park owners, real estate agents and other housing providers, such as community housing or boarding houses.
The advocates also play an effective role in homelessness prevention.
The service is funded through grants allocated to the Tenants Advice and Advocacy Program overseen by Fair Trading.