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Thursday, October 22, 2020
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Rydges Capital Hill

ACT industry welcomes rental measures amid eviction moratorium confusion

New rental measures announced by the ACT Government on Thursday (2 April) will see landlords offered an incentive to reduce rents for tenants in rental stress.

Amongst the suite of measures announced in the Territory Government’s $214 million package, landlords who reduce rents by at least 25% will be eligible for a land tax and rates rebate, equal to 50% of the rent reduction, to be capped at $1,300 per quarter. Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the government would also delay the issue of general rates notices by four weeks, and allow owner occupiers experiencing hardship due to COVID-19 to defer their general household rates for 12 months.

The rental measures package has been welcomed by the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS). CEO Dr Emma Campbell said “at a time when thousands of jobs have been lost due to the economic shocks caused by the pandemic, we need to ensure that workers can keep a roof over their heads”.

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Joel Dignam, chief executive of the ACT’s renting advocacy group Better Renting, said it is positive to see benefits for landlords subject to rent reductions, however, he raised concerns that “not all renters have good landlords”.

“We think the government should be considering options to reduce rental costs for all renters, not just those who are lucky to have sympathetic landlords,” he said.

“We think that the ACT Government should be looking at options to reduce rental expenses, for example by introducing a temporary percentage reduction in all rents. This would help people who rent to avoid getting into debt and to avoid the mental health impacts of that.”

A six-month moratorium on evictions was recently announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, prompting calls from both renters and landlords for more detailed information on the announcement.

The Prime Minister said today (Friday 3 April), the National Cabinet is initially focused on commercial tenancies as a priority due to the possibility of business closures. He said a “mandatory code” for commercial tenancy arrangements is being worked on, but encouraged tenants and landlords to work together to reach their own agreements.

He did add, however, that the moratorium on evictions is not a moratorium on rent, and those tenants who are able to pay rent are expected to do so. He also called on landlords to “do the right thing”, following reports out of Queensland tenants are turning to the administrative tribunal as landlords are saying the eviction moratorium is not law.

Mr Dignam joined the many voices calling for more clarity on this issue, and said there was a real need to stop rental debt from accumulating.

“If State and Territory governments reduced rents across the board, even temporarily, it would help renters to manage their debt and keep more money flowing through the economy.”

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