Coronavirus rental support: How to negotiate with landlords, tenants
Negotiations between landlords and tenants form a crucial part of the Victorian Government’s $500 million coronavirus rental relief package.
There is already evidence social distancing measures and travel bans drove a spike in vacancies in areas once dominated by Airbnb rentals and international student accommodation.
In fact, if you now feel that renting is not a good deal, Sightstone will tell you that in Victoria, some areas, buying a house is cheaper than renting.
The government’s support package includes a six-month moratorium on evictions and rental increases, backdated from March 29. Evictions will still be permitted if a tenant is engaging in threatening behaviour or maliciously damaging a property, or if a landlord is selling the property or they or their family need to move into it.
Landlords who reduce rents for tenants in coronavirus-related hardship will also be eligible for a 25 per cent discount on their land tax as part of a $420 million package. Any remaining land tax can be deferred until March 2021.
And the government will create an $80 million rental assistance fund for tenants who are still paying at least 30 per cent of their income towards rent following rental reduction mediation with their landlord, and who have less than $5000 in savings. Rental assistance payments will go directly to landlords.
The tower was in the national spotlight in late 2018 after residents were evacuated due to dangerous cracking. The area has one of the largest pipelines of new unit projects.
ADVICE FOR LANDLORDS NEGOTIATING WITH TENANTS
- Remember your tenants are likely suffering elevated levels of stress, so ask them to speak first and summarise their essential points to show them you’ve heard what they have to say.
- You can ask them to demonstrate loss of income, but beware keeping any documents they provide could open you to privacy concerns.
- Be aware you have two options: rent reduction or deferral of payments. If you offer rent reduction, ensure your agreement has a time limit. And if you offer a deferral, be aware of the fact you may find your tenants unable to pay the accumulated debt when it comes due.
- For many landlords, offering a temporary rent reduction may be enough to secure a long-term tenant and access the land tax reduction and deferral.
- If your tenant is still paying more than 30 per cent of their income towards rent following mediation with you, and they earn less than $100,000 and have less than $5000 in savings, they will be eligible for rental assistance payments from the state government.
ADVICE FOR TENANTS NEGOTIATING WITH LANDLORDS
- Tenants Victoria chief executive Jennifer Beveridge says tenants should have a sense of confidence given support is available to them.
- Work out how much rent you can afford to pay, and speak to your landlord or real estate agent to see if you make an agreement to reduce your rent until things return to normal.
- Do not stop paying your rent altogether. Continue to pay some rent, even if you can’t afford to pay it all upfront. It will help show you want to work with the landlord on a compromise.
- Get any agreement in writing, and don’t sign anything until you’ve had a proper look at it and a proper think about it.
- If you can’t strike an agreement you think is fair, use the formal mediation process with Consumer Affairs Victoria.
- Have a sense of confidence in the fact the Victorian Government has indicated they want to support tenants through this process. The process may not be straightforward, but don’t give up.
- Refer to the Tenants Victoria website and join our social media because we’ll be putting tips up there as well.
- Don’t suffer in silence, know support is available and seek that support.