Ban on evic­tions

Fremantle Gazette - - RESIDENTIA­L - Josh Zim­mer­man

A BAN on res­i­den­tial evic­tions in WA has been ex­tended six months to avoid dump­ing thou­sands of fam­i­lies into a rental mar­ket with near-record low va­cancy rates.

Com­merce Min­is­ter John Quigley re­vealed the de­ci­sion in Par­lia­ment last week, which fol­lows South Aus­tralia and Vic­to­ria an­nounc­ing sim­i­lar ex­ten­sions to their evic­tion mora­to­ri­ums.

WA land­lords have been barred from in­creas­ing rents or evict­ing ten­ants since March 30 un­der emer­gency leg­is­la­tion.

That mea­sure was due to ex­pire on Septem­ber 30 but has been ex­tended un­til March 28.

“For res­i­den­tial ten­an­cies, low va­cancy rates for res­i­den­tial rental prop­er­ties have and will con­tinue to place up­ward pres­sure on rents,” Mr Quigley said.

“The cur­rent unem­ploy­ment rate, as well as changes to JobKeeper, may place many fam­i­lies in po­ten­tial fi­nan­cial hard­ship.

“Those who have been able to re­turn to work are only just start­ing to re­cover and adding sig­nif­i­cant po­ten­tial rental hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity and avail­abil­ity is­sues to their wor­ries at this time would be an aw­ful propo­si­tion.”

REIWA pres­i­dent Damian Collins slammed the ex­ten­sion, which he said would lead to a rental “cri­sis” with the mar­ket un­able to keep pace with de­mand. Perth’s rental va­cancy rate is cur­rently just 1.6 per cent, with just more than 3200 prop­er­ties on the mar­ket in Au­gust.

“Un­for­tu­nately this gov­ern­ment clearly doesn’t un­der­stand eco­nomics 101,” Mr Collins said.

“When you op­er­ate in a mar­ket where there is a short­age of sup­ply, mak­ing that sup­ply less de­sir­able for in­vestors is only go­ing to make the prob­lem worse.”

Mr Collins pre­dicted prospec­tive land­lords would de­lay pur­chas­ing houses and apart­ments that are cur­rently sit­ting empty un­til the rent con­trol mea­sures are re­pealed.

“In a nor­mal cy­cle when the va­cancy rate is this low you’d see a sub­stan­tial num­ber of in­vestors come into the mar­ket think­ing the rent will go up but be­cause of that is not hap­pen­ing — they are wait­ing for this mo­ra­to­rium to end.”

Mr Collins claimed the vast ma­jor­ity of West Aus­tralians were no longer in a “COVID-af­fected sit­u­a­tion” and ex­tend­ing a blan­ket mo­ra­to­rium on evic­tions and rent in­creases did not make sense.

“They could have limited this to just those ten­ants who could demon­strate a 25 per cent in­come hit since March and we would have been able to work with that,” he said.

“I re­ally feel sorry for peo­ple try­ing to get into the mar­ket later this year or early next year – they will be pay­ing mas­sive rent in­creases be­cause cur­rent ten­ants in what is ef­fec­tively rent-con­trolled hous­ing are not go­ing to leave.”

Ten­ants can still have their leases ter­mi­nated for dam­ag­ing the prop­erty or re­fus­ing to pay rent when they are able to do so.

“It is ac­knowl­edged that it is a chal­leng­ing time for land­lords and they re­tain many rights un­der these ar­range­ments,” Mr Quigley said.

“The power still re­mains for land­lords to ter­mi­nate a ten­ancy, by the court, if a ten­ant is not pay­ing rent and not in COVID fi­nan­cial hard­ship.

“So I want to stress, ten­ants who are not in COVID fi­nan­cial hard­ship must still pay their rent oth­er­wise they face the prospect of evic­tion.”

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