Increased rent relief support payments, but NSW Eviction Moratorium must be extended
Yesterday the NSW Government announced they are increasing the rent relief support available up to $3000 for landlords who reduce (waive) rent by this amount for impacted tenants. We welcome and would like to thank Minister Anderson for extending rent relief support.
Rent relief support, alongside the continuation of the current eviction moratorium, is crucial to ensure households impacted by lockdown can save their tenancies in the longer term. The Residential Tenancy Support Payments made available during lockdown in 2021 could help many renting households avoid building up unwieldy debt - though unfortunately landlords are still not obliged to apply for the payment even where they have an impacted tenant. However, the financial assistance provided through the Residential Tenancy Support Payment is only one element of the protections required to ensure tenants are not evicted during lockdown.
Recent research from the US context has identified that evictions can accelerate COVID-19 transmission by decreasing individuals’ ability to socially distance. The research found the expiration of eviction moratoriums in the USA were associated with increased COVID-19 incidence and mortality, and make clear the necessity of preventing evictions as a public-health measure to limit COVID-19 cases and deaths.
The 60 day stop on evictions announced 14 July was a welcome, and necessary, public health measure. It is currently set to end 11 September. The eviction moratorium must be continued through lockdown, with some flexibility to allow time for impacted households to recover. However, the protection against eviction the current eviction moratorium provides is limited to restrictions on eviction for rent arrears for some renters ('impacted tenants'). NSW renters - including 'impacted renters' - continue to be evicted for a range of other reasons, including no reason at all ('no grounds' evictions). If the NSW Government wants to protect against evictions in NSW through lockdown, we need to strengthen the eviction moratorium.
There are a number of ways in which current restrictions and protections should be further clarified and strengthened to ensure they support and protect the community as intended. Our key recommendations:
- An extension of the Eviction Moratorium until 31 January 2022, and an expansion of exemptions to include section 84 and 85 to ensure landlords are not able to evade the current protections in place
- Protection against eviction into homelessness for boarding house residents
- Strengthening current restrictions around access to occupied residential rental premises in the public health orders to make clear that routine property inspections and access for valuers is not considered essential during lockdown
- Access to $750 per week income support for all adult residents in lockdown areas who do not have employment or who have lost income during lockdown
- A broad based 'cost of living' payment or voucher for use against energy or other utility bills for all households impacted by lockdown.
Further details and discussion available in our briefing on what measures are required to support renting households at this time.