The impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on the finances of many Australians have caused a strain in the relationship of tenants and landlords, according to a study by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI).

Roughly a quarter of tenants have been experiencing immediate concerns in meeting their rent payments. Furthermore, about 35% are concerned that they would not be able to pay full rent in the next few months.

Despite their struggles, many tenants were “apprehensive” about requesting rental assistance, thinking it might cause future repercussions, such as poor references or property defects not being fixed, according to the study.

In fact, only half of the tenants who had asked for rent reductions said their landlords or property agents had accepted their requests.

David Oswald, lead author of the AHURI study, said there is a significant disparity in the wellbeing of tenants and landlords amid the pandemic.

"The pandemic has amplified many weaknesses — such as affordability, rental security, overcrowding and homelessness — in the Australian housing system, and in particular, exacerbated many existing challenges in the rental sector," he said. "With moratoriums on evictions, rent increases and mortgage deferrals all coming to an end, the issues uncovered by this research risk rapidly worsening."

Oswald said the study points to the critical role of the government's financial support to enable tenants to pay their bills and keep a roof over their heads.

"It was clear from our findings that without this government support, many tenants would be in a significantly worse position, including potentially homeless. Both landlords and tenants reported confusion, stress and uncertainty about what would happen when government financial support packages end," he said.

The findings of the study also indicate a need for the government to strengthen its assistance to landlords, who, according to the study, believe that the plans in place had not considered them adequately.

"By focusing on improving the success of negotiations in the landlord-tenant relationship, both economic and mental wellbeing could be significantly improved," Oswald said.