Rental affordability worsens

By Gerv Tacadena | 14 May 2020

The impacts of COVID-19 outbreak on the personal finances of many Australians have already affected the affordability of the rental market, a new study by Rent.com.au shows.

According to the study, around three in five Australian renters have suffered from income cuts as a result of the pandemic, while a third said they have stopped working completely. Roughly 22% of renters claimed that their ability to pay rent has been "severely affected" by the outbreak.

While the federal and state governments have already rolled out relief packages in support of tenants and landlords, renters are still in the dark about the processes and what they need to do. In fact, only one in five renters who participated in the study said the industry response so far has been enough. More than half of the respondents in the study said they would like to see more support for renters.

"Short-term protections such as a moratorium on evictions, or a deferral in rent, provide some comfort, but there are concerns that this is just kicking the can down the road. We hope to see the industry and government respond in innovative ways to support renters and the industry at large," said Greg Bader, CEO of Rent.com.au.

Also read: Moratorium Not A Free Pass On Rents

The study also highlighted the lack of communication between landlords and renters. Two-thirds of renters said they do not feel "confident" asking their property managers and landlords for help. Only one in three said they have received information and support from their landlords.

Around 35% of renters have asked for a reduction or a deferral in their rent. However, only half of them were able to successfully negotiate with their landlords. Bader said it is crucial for landlords, property managers, and tenants to communicate actively and openly.

"Obviously, every case is different, and the renter will generally be required to demonstrate any impact on their income/affordability. Property managers and landlords are also affected by the crisis and all of us are navigating new ground," he said.

Almost half of the respondents expressed worries about what would happen after the outbreak. Of those who are planning to move in the next six months, 46% said they are putting their plans on hold indefinitely.

"This is not surprising during a period of uncertainty. With record levels of rental properties available right now and the possibility of downward pressure on rents, there is even more incentive for landlords and property managers to negotiate with their tenants, because finding a new one will be a little harder," Bader said.

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