The Tenants’ Union NSW today (Wednesday 2 September) releases a report on the impact of COVID-19 for NSW renters: Supporting Renters Through the Pandemic.
Supporting Renters Through the Pandemic draws on reporting data from local Tenants’ Advice Services across NSW, and demonstrates the struggle many renters are facing. Every second renter seeking advice from a local Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service during the pandemic has asked for advice about the end of a tenancy. Around 40% of private renters who have contacted services have been having trouble with rent.
The Tenants’ Union of NSW remains deeply concerned about what might happen for renting families and households if the NSW Evictions Moratorium isn’t extended beyond its current end date of October 15. Many renters have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and they are struggling to pay rent and stay in their homes.
It is also clear that through COVID-19 renters have been building up debt, and are being forced to end their tenancies as a result. Across the Greater Sydney area from April to June the number of renters who lost their bond in full increased by close to 20% over the number who lost their full bond the previous year. This translates into thousands of renting households who have built up significant arrears and/or are being hit with end of lease break fees when their tenancies end.
Leo Patterson Ross, CEO, Tenants’ of Union NSW: “It is very difficult finding a new home right now and affordability remains a huge issue for many people.”
While in some areas median rents are falling, this is a trend that is evident in some of the more expensive or ‘inner ring’ areas of Sydney, but much less so in other areas of Sydney and regional NSW. COVID-19 has had different impacts on market rents in different parts of the state, and no clear generalisation about the impacts can be made.
Leo Patterson Ross, CEO, Tenants’ Union of NSW: “When it comes to rents we need to acknowledge NSW is much more than just Sydney, and Sydney is not one single market. In suburbs and towns from Penrith and Campbelltown to Dubbo and Wagga Wagga renters are currently facing the lowest vacancy rates for several years.”
Combined with the upcoming changes to JobSeeker and JobKeeper if protections are lifted in October 15, renting households struggling because of COVID-19 could very quickly lose any ability to negotiate continued reduced rents. With many renters likely building up debts or arrears over the last few months, the Tenants’ Union is worried NSW will see more people forced to leave their current home.
As a community we can make sure people aren’t forced out of their rented homes during the ongoing health crisis. This requires extending and strengthening current moratorium protections, and making sure renting households who are struggling get the assistance they need.
Supporting Renters Through the Pandemic provides evidence of the continued need for support for renting households across NSW during the pandemic and demonstrates the need for an extension and strengthening of moratorium protections.
Other key findings:
- The number of callers who required general advice about termination of tenancy increased by just over 80%.
- The number of advices being provided by local services for ‘no grounds’ evictions is up 33% during COVID-19. In many of these cases tenants report that just prior to receiving their eviction notice they reached out to their landlord and requested a rent reduction.
- In the April – June quarter the number of callers asking TAASs for general advice about ending their tenancy rose by over 60% from the previous year
- In July and August views to all Tenants' Union NSW factsheets about eviction or end of tenancy increased between 2 and 2.5 times. Views of the Tenants' Union NSW's 'Ending tenancy early' factsheet increased almost four times (294%).
Key recommendations of report:
- Extension of protections 6 months beyond provision of Commonwealth income supports
- Provide NCAT powers to set 'fair rents' for impacted tenants
- Provide NCAT powers to waive rent arrears where the landlord has not engaged in good faith negotiations
- Provide financial assistance to impacted renters - additional funding to continue Rent Choice Assist (COVID19), expand eligibility to allow all temporary visa holders including international students and asylum seekers and others are able to access Department of Communities and Justice private rental assistance products during the moratorium, and introduce a relief grant of up to $2500 for housing related debts or ongoing costs, and a no interest loans scheme for a further $3000 loan for housing related debts or ongoing costs
- Ongoing funding and mandatory requirement for participation in the Fair Trading' Rental Bond Exit Survey
- Continued additional funding for TAAP Services
For more info on renting in NSW during COVID-19, see our Renters' Guide to COVID-19.