Ban on evictions
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would delay purchasing houses and apartments that are currently sitting empty until the rent control measures are repealed.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.”