The state government of Queensland decided to stick with the original deadline of the eviction moratorium for residential tenants, drawing mixed reactions from different groups.
Under the announcement, the moratorium, which is applied to residential tenants suffering an income loss of at least 25% amid the COVID-19 pandemic, will be lifted by the end of the month. Housing Minister Mick de Brenni said Queensland's economy is faring better than other states, making it ideal to lift the moratorium.
"The freeze on evictions was important in the residential sector when movement in Queensland was much more restricted. Because of our strong health response, we've been able to keep the economy more open and we've already started delivering Queensland's plan for economic recovery," he said.
Despite the lift on the moratorium, de Brenni said other protective measures for renters will continue until the end of the year. These measures include:
- Protections for tenants from being listed in a tenancy database for unpaid rent caused by COVID-19 impacts
- Tenants experiencing domestic violence being able to end their interest in a tenancy agreement quickly
- Limited reletting costs for eligible tenants who end their fixed lease early
- Entry restrictions and requirements that support social distancing requirements
- Relaxed repair and maintenance obligations that recognise impacts on lessors while maintaining tenant safety in the rental property
Penny Carr, CEO of Tenants Queensland, said she is "disappointed" with the state government's decision, adding that this could lead to many residential tenants fearing eviction.
Carr questioned why the state decided to retain the moratorium deadline for residential tenancies while at the same time, extending it for commercial evictions. She also said that the decision goes against what other states are doing to protect residential renters.
"We are aware of a range of household types – single parents, two parent families, empty nesters and singles – all of whom have been waiting anxiously for an announcement of an extension on the moratorium. Now they'll be contemplating an anxious and grim lead up to Christmas as they await eviction action being taken against them," she said.
While the local tenants’ group in Queensland expressed concerns about the decision, the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA) commended the move.
Damian Collins, president of REIWA, said Queensland is leading the way on emergency tenancy legislation. He said the state's decision indicates a balanced approach in dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on the economy and the rental market.
"The Queensland government listened to all stakeholders, formed an advisory group and ultimately introduced fair legislation that provided protection to those in genuine hardship as a result of COVID-19," he said.
Collins urged the Western Australian government to follow Queensland in amending the Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020.
Collins said since this announcement, the REIWA Information Service team has been inundated with calls from landlords and tenants who have been negatively impacted by the government's decision.
"It is clear from the sheer number of calls to REIWA's Information Service and the recent media attention, that unfortunately there is a significant number of West Australians unnecessarily disadvantaged as a result of the blanket decision to extend the legislation," he said.