[UPDATE May 14, 2020]
Legislation Passed Supporting Renters
The NSW Parliament passed the Covid-19 Emergency Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 No 2 yesterday which included amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 to be in force during the emergency period - a big step forward from where the government stood just a few weeks ago regarding protections for renters.
The amendments gave renters two important wins:
1) renters may be able to break their leases with reduced penalties by applying through the Tribunal under certain circumstances: if the landlord has refused to negotiate rent relief, or refused to negotiate in good faith or, if a tenant and a landlord are unable to come to an agreement on a fair and affordable rent reduction.
2) renters and households who are Covid-19 impacted (by losing more than 25% of their incomes or the household's income), will be able to receive reduced rents via a compensation fund that will support landlords who can show hardship and who pass on rent reductions to tenants.
The Greens put up a series of amendments which would have given renters more significant support at this time in key areas:
- giving the Tribunal the power to impose reduced rents and to prioritize renters' applications as urgent
- rent relief for renters and landlords in financial hardship
- restricting the ability of landlords to evict tenants on no grounds
- stopping retaliatory evictions
- break lease option without any financial penalty
- maintenance records available on request to renters
- allowance of pets to give tenants more flexibility when seeking a home
Jenny provided a wrap up of what happened on Facebook live after the legislation passed which you can watch here.
To find the details about these changes and other measures and how they can help in your specific circumstances, go to the Department of Fair Trading site or check out the information on the Tenants Union site.
We will continue to work for a better deal for renters especially during this pandemic when the right to an affordable, livable home is more crucial than ever.
UPDATE April 13, 2020]
Overdue Eviction Moratorium Welcome, But No Rent Relief Yet
Today the NSW Government finally made clear their plans to enact a moratorium on evictions in NSW renters and other measures to protect commercial and residential tenants during this pandemic.
These measures will see much needed protection put in place, but is it unclear whether the money allocated to the package will actually assist in reducing rents at this time.
The moratorium on evictions in NSW, including protection from being blacklisted, will provide crucial protection for those who have been living with the stress of being evicted into homelessness because they can’t pay their rent.
The announcement also includes an additional funding boost of $2.3. million for advice and advocacy services to the NSW Tenants Union so that they can continue to support tenants through these negotiations with their landlords.
Read the Greens media statement in response to the announcement here.
The announcement today does not include direct financial support for renters - it remains to be seen whether the measures put in place to support tenants in negotiations and incentivise landlords to provide rent reductions - will be enough.
The Greens are committed to ensuring that no-one is evicted into homelessness during this pandemic - or left with a massive rent debt when it is finally over.
[UPDATE April 9, 2020]
Renters waiting while Minister enjoys Pearl Beach ‘Holiday’ Home
It seems the NSW Arts Minister has been flouting the restrictions and spending time at his holiday home in Pearl Beach, while artists and the entire creative industry suffers as a result of this pandemic.
Read more about this and the need for urgent rental relief for tenants - many of whom are artists, musos and creatives - on Jenny's facebook here.
[UPDATE March 30, 2020]
A Moratorium on Evictions
Last night Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a number of significant and much needed measures to protect renters and tenants during this pandemic.
Commercial and residential tenancies
As part of its work on helping businesses hibernate, National Cabinet agreed that short-term intervention is needed for commercial tenancies. Work on this has begun, but there is more to do, including for residential tenancies.
National Cabinet agreed to a moratorium on evictions over the next six months for commercial and residential tenancies in financial distress who are unable to meet their commitments due to the impact of coronavirus.''
Read the full statement and details here.
This is a vital first step in protecting renters to ensure that no one is forced into homelessness as a result of losing their jobs at this time. And I know this is a massive relief for so many people who have lost their income and didn't know how they were going to pay their rent this week.
Thank you to everyone who signed the petition calling for a moratorium and have been pushing for this with us over the last weeks.
It's now up to the NSW government to enact changes and bring this into law. There is nothing stopping them from acting on this - and putting the moratorium in place today. This is because we were able to secure much needed amendments to the NSW COVID-19 Emergency Measures Act to give them the power to act for renters and tenants immediately (read more about that below).
We know that a moratorium on evictions is a crucial step - but more needs to be done.
A moratorium without direct financial support to renters is only pushing the problem further down the road.
We know that many renters have lost their income, so the last thing they need is to be living with the reality of an ever growing rental arrears debt. At the end of this pandemic, it isn’t acceptable for people who rent to be left with huge and unserviceable debts.
If significant amounts of direct financial support can be handed out to big business and banks in this current crisis, then there is no excuse for not also providing direct financial support to renters.
These are our priorities: that NO-ONE is evicted into homelessness and that renters are financially supported so they don’t accrue massive debts.
To ensure no-one is evicted in to homelessness during this pandemic:
- Immediate action by the NSW Government to implement the moratorium on evictions as agreed by National Cabinet
- Direct financial support for renters to ensure they do not accrue large debts as a result of not being able to pay rent
- Rents frozen for the next 12 months so that renters going back into the workforce won't face increased rents and rental stress during this transition period
- No mortgage foreclosures, so housing isn’t lost due to people being unable to meet their mortgage repayments.
- Support and access for international students, refugees and asylum seekers and other visa holders, so that no one, no matter what their citizenship status, is homelessness during this pandemic
In addition to this, we have been working closely with Homelessness NSW and other key homelessness services to ensure that protections and plans are in place to house people who are currently homeless, living in boarding houses or find themselves in other specific circumstances and need specialist housing and support.
We are also working to support local businesses to ensure they are updated and connected with supports for them - get in touch if you want to know more about this.
We will continue to provide updates and share more details as they are available.
In the meantime - we urge you to contact the Premier and the NSW Minister responsible for residential tenancies - to share your story and explain why they need to act immediately.
[UPDATE March 24, 2020]
We had a big win last night (Tues 24/3) getting an amendment into the COVID-19 Emergency Measures Bill in NSW - this was an important first step to empower the Government to introduce measures to protect residential and commercial tenants.
What happened exactly?
The COVID-19 Bills introduced by the NSW Government yesterday didn't include any measures for renters or tenants - in fact there was nothing that even began to address the housing and homelessness crisis that is just around the corner if we don't act swiftly.
So yesterday morning, after seeing the Bill for the first time late Monday night, we started working with the NSW Tenants Union to draft amendments that would address this massive oversight. These amendments were introduced by the Greens and subsequently passed into law.
What do the amendments do?
The amendments give the power to the relevant ministers in NSW to create regulations to put a moratorium on evictions, prevent people having their lease terminated and make other changes to what current powers landlords and owners have over tenants. To be clear, these measures have not yet been introduced, but the amendments mean they can be without them needing to pass through the parliament.
Why is this so important?
As a result of these amendments, there is nothing stopping the responsible ministers from taking this action RIGHT NOW. If this amendment hadn't been made, they would have had to draft legislation, wait until parliament resumed (the next scheduled date is in September) and then have it debated and passed through both houses.
These are extraordinary times, and these are extraordinary powers, powers that can be used for good - right now - to protect residential and commercial tenants from evictions.
We have been working with housing experts on developing good measures that will protect all renters and prevent unmanageable debt accumulation and have been feeding these into our regular discussions with the Premier and the Ministers responsible for renters - Kevin Anderson (residential) and Damien Tudehope (commercial). It’s now over to them to use these new powers for protect renters during COVID19.
The National Cabinet including Premier Berejiklian is meeting tonight (Wed 25/3) and tenancy is on the agenda. This means NSW will be empowered to enact agreed measures immediately without parliament having to be recalled. Because of our amendment, renters in NSW will get relief more quickly.
You can see the Greens amendments that passed last night here.
So that's where we are. If you are currently stressing about how you will pay your rent (or your mortgage), know that we are on your side and doing everything we can to ensure a moratorium on evictions - so that everyone has a safe, secure place to live during this pandemic.