Tenants cannot be evicted if they have financial hardship because of the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis under new measures enacted by the national cabinet on Wednesday night.
It comes after the NSW Parliament passed an amendment to allow the Housing Minister to ban evictions, a measure to bolster renters’ rights in the current economic climate.
The national cabinet did not make any decisions on rent freezes because tenancy law is a state issue, with further decisions to be made on Friday.
The NSW amendment, drafted by Greens member for Newtown Jenny Leong, empowers the minister responsible for housing to ban evictions for renters through regulation.
The COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 also allows the minister to make a similar decision for commercial tenants, and empowers the minister to make rent freezes too.
Ms Leong said there were even better measures to pause the payment of rent that could still be implemented yet, including a government-underwritten loan scheme which would help prevent a tenant from becoming become evicted for non-payment of rent during the six-month moratorium.
“It gives people the security to have discussions about how we can solve the ongoing problem,” she said. “[We need to] make sure renters don’t have a massive debt and to make sure landlords don’t default on their own mortgages or credits.”
The amendment drafted by Jenny Leong empowers the minister responsible for housing to ban evictions for renters through regulation. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
The powers can be used if NSW Parliament is not sitting and won’t be within two weeks of the regulations being activated.
The emergency powers will expire in six months, or before if the Parliament decides to repeal them.
Ms Leong said the powers were not preempting any decisions made by the national cabinet which is due to meet on Wednesday night to discuss what to do about tenants and landlords in the COVID-19 crisis, among other things.
Earlier on Wednesday, federal Greens leader Adam Bandt said he would be pushing for similar measures to be adopted nationally and was calling for even stronger powers to be passed.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Premier and Chief Ministers, Mr Bandt said it was important that no one would be kicked out of their home during the current crisis.
“Preventing evictions and mortgage foreclosures is a health response as well as an economic support measure for people who rent,” the letter reads. “People facing eviction or foreclosure are less able to take actions required to minimise transmission of COVID-19, particularly where they become homeless, and will become more vulnerable to exposure and illness.”
Renters have been among some of the hardest hit since the COVID-19 economic downturn, as they are more likely to be casual workers employed by some of the industries shutdown in recent weeks.
Renters are more likely to be from overseas or interstate, and there are reports share houses are haemorrhaging tenants as residents head home to be with their families.
Landlords are also being urged to slash rents to attract tenants, warned of a looming over-supply of rentals.