Tenants who have the financial capacity must continue to pay rent even with the moratorium on rental evictions in place, according to Housing Minister Michael Sukkar.
In a TV interview with ABC News, Sukkar said that the moratorium on evictions amid the COVID-19 outbreak does not necessarily mean that tenants can skip paying their rents.
"Unless you have an arrangement with your landlord that takes into account your financial circumstances, you are required to pay your rent. The moratorium applies to make sure that people do not find themselves without a home," he said.
Sukkar assured that the national cabinet is exploring options and proposals to set a framework that can help landlords and tenants make an agreement about rental payments.
"To the greatest extent as possible, we want flexibility. We want landlords and tenants working it out for themselves," he said.
Adrian Kelly, president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia, said Sukkar's message should clarify the issue about rents and the moratorium on evictions.
"A moratorium on evictions doesn't mean rent is not payable, it is. If circumstances mean that payment in full is not possible it is a holding off from payments, not a cancellation," Kelly said.
However, Kelly urged the state governments to step up and provide assistance to Australians to help them continue to pay their bills, including rent.
"The rent cash flow ensures that everyone wins and I unashamedly include the real estate agent in that. We need income in order to continue to employ our property managers who are at the coal face of looking after both tenants and landlords," he said.
Furthermore, Kelly said it is counterintuitive just to leave tenants and landlords to sort things out themselves.
Sukkar said in the ABC News interview that the national cabinet is already considering some proposals to set a standard.
"I'm sure there will be a framework of minimum standards and requirements. It's not in any landlord's interest to lose a great tenant who is going through a short-term difficulty. I'm sure landlords understand that. But we need to put in some minimum standards," Sukkar said.
In an earlier statement, Ben Kingsley, chairperson of PICA, landlords must also be provided with assistance from the government. PICA outlined some of their suggested policies that would help landlords amid the outbreak.
"Let's be clear — landlords understand the situation. The vast majority are hardworking, average Australians who own just one rental property," Kingsley said.
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