Rental eviction moratorium
It has been well acknowledged that housing would become one of the most substantially impacted sectors by the COVID-19-induced loss of employment and income. On 29 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison firmly acknowledged the degree of this impact when he announced a moratorium on the eviction of residential and commercial tenants who are unable to pay their rent due to COVID-19 financial distress.
“State and Territories will be moving to put a moratorium on evictions of persons as a result of financial distress if they are unable to meet their commitments,” he said.
“And so there would be a moratorium on evictions for the next six months under those rental arrangements.”
The moratorium will be settled over the coming days at a state level, where the control over tenancy legislation sits.
The web of financial damage
There is no doubt that landlords will experience an unprecedented and likely intolerable loss of income should a tenant be unable to pay their rent – the same unprecedented and intolerable loss of income that a tenant faces when they lose their job as a result of the crisis.
Agencies will no doubt now be feeling the looming threat of this cash freeze themselves, and the constraints it will place on the fees they are able to collect in continuing to service their rent roll. Agencies who, in turn, will be faced with an uncertain future in guaranteeing wages for their staff or paying bills falling due. This web of financial damage will continue to snag anyone close to it, leaving very few individuals and businesses untouched.
This is no ‘regular’ economic problem. The federal and state governments are creating relief packages that have never been contemplated, ever. And as they are doing this work, they are asking us all to consider sensible, measured steps we can take to solve this massive problem. Cooperation is the only solution.
Property Managers are essential
Doctors and nurses have found themselves in the epicentre of a global pandemic. They may not want to be there. They may have had other plans. They likely have their own health or the wellbeing of their family or their own financial distress consuming them – but we need them to persist in doing what they do. We need them to be sensible and take steps to keep all of us safe. We need them to help us and heal us.
Housing is an essential requirement for human life. We all need to stay inside to keep warm, safe and alive. Within the COVID-19 crisis, housing also represents a critical tool that Australians have used and must continue to use to restrict community spread of the coronavirus. Property managers now sit at the centre of this crisis. Whether we predicted it or not, whether it is convenient or not, the country now needs property managers – sensible, reasonable problem solvers – to keep tenants in their homes and keep all of us safe.
At the centre of this crisis, there is no definitive rule book. There is no clear answer. And in attempting to negotiate matters of tenancy – matters of life – there will be anxiety, emotion and financial distress that will overrun a property manager’s best attempts at collaborative problem solving. This, in truth, has always been the case.
The property industry has been dropped into a massive, frenzied change. The ask of property managers is monumental. Even so, there is no one who is better placed to solve complex problems than those who are experts in the field. Those property managers who continue to bring knowledge, persistence, imagination and commitment to their role and their clients will continue to make sense of the madness – and WCPT will do everything we can to assist you.
While the implementation of the moratorium will be designed by the state governments, the principles of the arrangement have been agreed at a national level. The media statement outlining this change can be found here.
DMIRS have released a statement of advice to consumers in light on COVID-19, which includes a section on tenancy. This advice can be found here.