Experts Call for Landlords to Halt Evictions Amid Coronavirus

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SYDNEY, Australia – Experts are calling to halt evictions of renters who cannot afford to continue paying their rents during the coronavirus crisis.

Landlords should offer their tenants more leniency with experts calling to ban evictions as the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate the country. With the ongoing health crisis, there is a massive number of Australians who are going to lose their streams of income. With this, experts want to protect tenants by banning evictions, which, according to them, will offer benefits to the broader public as well.

The senior policy offer in the New South Wales’ Tenant’s Union, Leo Patterson-Ross, people have should stay inside their homes and putting them out in the community is not good.

He also stated that even from the perspective of health management, putting people out of their homes at this time is not the best thing for anybody.

The coronavirus pandemic caused eviction bans in a lot of major cities in several countries worldwide, including Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. There is also a suspension of rent and bills payment in France and halting of mortgage repayment is Italy and the Uk for those struggling to pay back their loans.

According to Mr Patterson-Ross, France turned on a rent freeze, but they didn’t need to freeze eviction as well as they already have one during the winter season each year. He also said that while other countries are starting to take the same initiative very seriously, Australia doesn’t at the moment.

Meanwhile, there is an ongoing petition since Wednesday morning. It was an initiative of MP Jenny Leong of Greens, which demands to ban evictions in New South Wales. The request currently has over 1050 signatures.

Mr Patterson-Ross also commented that rent needs to decrease as well as most income of Australians will go down. Otherwise, according to him, tenants who were permitted to halt rent payments will face eviction once the conditions improve.

Tenants Victoria is also pushing for an eviction ban as it has already seen an increasing number of households on the risk of losing their homes as they cannot continue with their jobs anymore.

According to Jennifer Beveridge, chief executive of Tenants Victoria, they are receiving messages from people facing evictions from their landlords or real estate agents right now. She said that tenants are also getting eviction notices and possession orders from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Ms Beveridge said that evictions during this time don’t only put tenants at risk, but everyone in the country or the community as well.

She added that VCAT should hold off on issuing possession orders for overdue rents. Ms Beveridge further noted that landlords and real estate agents should also consider delaying notices to vacate until there is no health emergency anymore.

She further said that at this time, having a home is essential in keeping people safe and saving their lives.

Banning eviction during this period goes a long way in making tenants feel safe and secured, without overly curbing landlords in fair use of their properties.

Tenants Victoria is only one of the 40 community organizations that are pushing for the suspension in debt collection and loan repayments. Aside from rent bans, the group is also calling for service providers to waive late and penalty fees. It would include waiving extra interest costs and disconnecting services.

According to the chief executive of the Victoria Council of Social Service, Emma King, the ongoing pandemic will have massive effects by itself. The last thing people need right now, she said, is predatory bosses like banks and debt collectors as well as obstinate business practices driving people into poverty.

Currently, most of the big banks in the country are offering support for individuals and businesses through their existing financial hardship programs on a case-by-case basis. Some of the currently available supports include suspending interest, re-ageing loans, reducing loan amounts, waiving charges, and deferring home loan repayments.

Meanwhile, Australia’s peak organization for homelessness is pushing for the federal government to provide emergency payments immediately. According to them, it will work a long way to help cover rents for contract and casual workers who are losing their income due to the virus.

Jenny Smith, the chairperson of Homelessness Australia, stated that the Sickness Benefit and Newstart Allowance need an increase. In Melbourne and Sydney, the average weekly asking rent can reach as much as $430 to $540, respectively. Both subsidies are inadequate to make such payments, she said.

Even including the $750 stimulus support from the government, Ms Smith said that Australians are still on the risk of losing their homes.

The peak body is pushing for the government to offer extra payment support that can at least cover a months worth of rent or more, if necessary.

Ms Smith further stated that individuals in casual employment and low income could be in grave need as soon as they are out of a job. She also said that middle-income earners usually have only a couple of weeks before they experience significant difficulties in continuing with their current financial commitments.

There are hundreds of thousands of individuals living on the verge of a financial disaster in Australia, she added. Ms Smith also said that it will be cheaper and much easier if the government will start to intervene while Australians still have homes.

From the latest census, there are over 10% of tenants who are currently facing rental stress, while 7% of homeowners are experiencing home loan stress. Another survey also shows that 40% of Australians have limited savings or less than $500 saved in their rainy day funds.

Further, Ms Smith is asking landlords to be extremely flexible towards their renters, especially during this trying times. And while everyone has a shoe to fill, she also wants the government to show even more leadership and provide additional assistance as landlords could also be in dire situations.

She further commented that extra financial support is also necessary for overcrowded houses which require alternative accommodation to self-isolate properly.

Meanwhile, West Australian Premier Mark McGowan declared a freeze on household charge and fee increase on Monday. He added that evicting tenants, households, and businesses due to unpaid bills will only worsen the situation during this time.

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