30 Oct 2020

'Perfect storm' for renters ahead, advocates warn

Tenancy advocates say the Queensland government's decision to end an eviction moratorium this month could create a "perfect storm", as JobKeeper rates are also reduced.

On Wednesday, Housing Minister Mick de Brenni confirmed the residential tenancy eviction moratorium for people whose incomes were affected by COVID-19 would end on September 29, but commercial tenants would have their moratorium extended until December 31.

The eviction freeze was designed to protect residential tenants who could not pay rent because of the pandemic, but Mr de Brenni said the state had decided to end the freeze after data showed the economy stabilising.

Queensland Council of Social Service chief executive Aimee McVeigh said the move was "incomprehensible and disgraceful" when most other states had extended their freeze.

Ms McVeigh said QCOSS and Tenants Queensland were aware of renters who had been told they would be evicted when the moratorium ended, but it was difficult to say how many people would be evicted.

"We know that 34 per cent of Queenslanders are currently renting, and we know that come December we're facing 9 per cent unemployment and the tapering off of income support, so it's a perfect storm for a rise in homelessness," she said.

"And we know that our public housing system just cannot cope with that type of pressure."

Tenants Queensland chief executive Penny Carr said her organisation was particularly concerned for the welfare of workers in the tourism, travel and associated industries.

Gold Coast resident Kim Rode lost her job in the travel industry early in the pandemic, and while she negotiated a rent reduction at the time, her rent had since returned to its usual rate of $600 a week.

"Money that we're getting at the moment will drop in a few weeks' time, and there's basically no work," she said.

"It's going to leave people - say you're at $600 a week, it's going to leave people $200 a week to live on. Which is nothing.

"With Christmas coming up there's going to be so many evictions, and so much homelessness."

Ms Rode said she was concerned for people who did not have the ability to fight for a rent reduction or agreement with their landlord through the Residential Tenancy Authority or the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

"I feel sorry for the people who can't talk for themselves or are terrified to go to court," she said.

"There's a lot of devastated people out there today."

JobKeeper has been extended to March 28, but the current $1500 fortnightly payment will be reduced to $1200 for full-time workers and $750 for part-time from the end of September.

Queensland's unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 per cent in August, from 8.8 per cent in July, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data released on Thursday.

Treasurer Cameron Dick said Queensland's economic situation was now "very different" from when the eviction freeze began in April, but admitted the JobKeeper reduction would cause problems.

"When JobKeeper comes off, it's going to be a really significant issue, so we recognise the challenges, which is why we are putting a number of safety mechanisms in place," he said.

Mr Dick said some tenant protections would be retained, including a faster process to end a lease due to domestic violence, and tenants not listed on a database for unpaid rent if they were impacted by COVID-19.

He said he did not believe Queensland renters would be forced out of their homes and onto the streets.

SOURCE: https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/perfect-storm-for-renters-ahead-advocates-warn-20200917-p55wm0.html

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