More COVID-19 relief for renters, small business

The Victorian government’s ban on residential evictions has been extended until the end of the year, after more than 80,000 renters sought help through official channels since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Landlords will also continue to be forbidden from increasing rents on their properties until 2021 in a move welcomed by the community sector and tenants advocates.

Treasurer Tim Pallas has extended the state’s shield for residential and commercial tenants. Credit:Joe Armao

But Treasurer Tim Pallas also angered the commercial real estate sector on Thursday, when he announced the government would force landlords to cut rents for small businesses hit by the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Pallas said the state was pouring $160 million into tax relief and hardship payments for building owners whose rent-rolls were affected by the move, as well as offering one-off hardship grants of $3000 to both commercial landlords and tenants.

The government’s Rental Relief Grant will be boosted from $2000 to $3000 for eligible landlords and tenants, with previous grant recipients able to apply for a $1000 top-up.

After the Treasurer’s announcement, the Property Council welcomed the cash grants and tax cuts for commercial landlords but said some of the government’s other actions would "push many landlords to their limits or beyond".

Mr Pallas said more than 80,000 residential tenants had approached Consumer Affairs Victoria with rental problems since mid-April, with nearly 26,000 of them securing rent reductions from their landlords.



The Victorian Small Business Commission, which offers a similar service to CAV for the commercial sector, was approached by nearly 8000 struggling businesses or their landlords since April.

Under the new rules, the commission will have the power to force a commercial landlord to grant rent relief in proportion to business lost through the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Pallas said the sector would be compensated with access to land tax cuts of 50 per cent – up from the 25 per cent previously available – and hardship payments of up to $3000 per commercial tenancy, with $60 million set aside to fund the grants and an expected $100 million hit to state revenue from the tax cuts.

The Treasurer said the fresh rental package was about "striking the balance" between the needs of landlords and tenants.

“This is about making sure that we strike the right balance and that those who depend upon tenancy arrangements for their shelter, their homes, are provided with adequate safeguards," Mr Pallas said.

“It’s also making sure … we provide support and assistance to landlords who do the right thing by their tenants.”

But Property Council executive director Cressida Wall said the extension of the code on commercial tenancies would make life even harder for property owners.

“The extension will push many landlords to their limits or beyond," Ms Wall said.

“Landlords cannot keep propping up the system. As the crisis goes on, we will need goodwill and action from both banks and governments to ensure that these businesses do not go under and take down the economy with them.”

The Council to Homeless Persons said the extension of the eviction ban would save thousands of Victorians from losing their homes.

“Today’s announcement is an enormous relief to renters who are doing it tough because of the pandemic," the council's chief executive, Jenny Smith, said.

“There has been a significant increase in people experiencing extreme rent stress because of unemployment or reduced shifts.

"Until today, we had been very concerned that the end of the evictions moratorium in September would result in thousands of evictions."

Get our Morning & Evening Edition newsletters

The most important news, analysis and insights delivered to your inbox at the start and end of each day. Sign up here.

Source: Read Full Article