The state government of New South Wales has announced a $440m package to help both landlords and tenants affected by the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The package will provide a range of support to both residential and commercial landlords and tenants who are affected by the outbreak. This includes financial support via land tax waivers and rebates.
"The announcement provides a 25% rebate or waiver for landlords who pass on an equivalent amount of rental relief for their tenants. We are also deferring land tax for the next three months for those who get to pay their land tax bill for this year," said NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.
Tenants who have suffered a loss of income equal to or greater than 25% are encouraged to speak with their landlords and enter negotiations. Perrottet said the more the landlords and tenants work with each other, the better off both would be during this pandemic.
"For those tenants whose circumstances have not changed, their obligations have not changed as well — they are required to pay rent during this period of time," he said.
The Tenants' Union of NSW said the announcement provides people with greater certainty about their living situation and their ability to stay home during the outbreak.
"Implementing a process to focus negotiations before eviction can occur will avoid some of the issues people have been facing and give us all breathing space," said Leo Patterson Ross, CEO of the Tenants' Union.
However, Patterson said it is crucial for the government to define pertinent details in the policy to prevent possible loopholes.
"The risk of not providing a comprehensive moratorium and rent relief package is that it can open up loopholes. We look forward to examining the detail and will continue to engage with the minister for innovation and better regulation and the NSW government, including drawing attention to the actual experience of people who rent their homes in the state," he said.
The support for residential tenancies came after some groups called out the federal government’s mandatory code, which only covers commercial leases.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said residential tenancies will be dealt directly by state and territory jurisdictions.
"We have a moratorium on evictions, and then individual measures beyond that they believe are best addressed within each individual jurisdiction," he said.
Adrian Kelly, president at the Real Estate Institute of Australia, said this could lead to Australians being treated differently depending on where they reside.
"This will add to the confusion and most likely there will be the misinterpretation of messaging," he said. "I am disappointed that a uniform approach could not have been agreed to for all Australians."
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