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The Rent is Too Damn High

Julia Finn MP

Tenants in NSW pay the highest rents in Australia, and even before the COVID-19 crisis, many were in housing stress, paying more than 40% of income in rent.

The NSW Liberal Government is doing very little to support tenants and landlords through the COVID-19 crisis. Labor is fighting for them and on May 12th we are going back to Parliament to take up that fight.

Since COVID-19 restrictions came into place, we have seen hundreds of thousands of job losses across Australia. Hundreds of thousands of people who now struggle to pay their rent or mortgages and keep food on the table.

The worst affected industries are hospitality, tourism and the arts. Industries characterised already by casual and insecure work. This has been devastating and made worse by the limitations of income support to casuals who have been employed for less than 12 months and for the self employed.

Around a third of NSW residents are tenants and many have lost work and income. But for the Liberals and Nationals, people’s homes are just another asset class to invest in.

All the NSW Government has done is encourage tenants and landlords to negotiate and offered a waiver of land tax to landlords who negotiate a rent reduction with their tenants for the next six months. A reduction in rent that can accrue as arrears to be repaid at the end.

This provides no incentive whatsoever for the 84% of NSW landlords who don’t pay land tax to help their tenants at all. The overwhelming majority of NSW landlords only own one investment property, so are quite sensitive to variations in rental income, and many are resistant.

There is no recognition either of the asymmetric power relationship in these negotiations between a tenant who fears losing their home, and their landlord. On top of that, there is no capacity for the Tribunal to assess and enforce a reasonable rent reduction.

The guidance from the Government is as clear as mud!

The NSW Tenants Union has been inundated with requests for advice - 1.2 million in a month!

Other Labor states have done much more. Queensland, Victoria, and the ACT are all providing financial support to tenants to help them pay their rent if they have lost income due to COVID-19. And Western Australia has withdrawn break fees - the fees tenants are charged if they break a lease early.

NSW Labor wants to support all tenants who have lost income, not just the select few who rent from landlords who pay land tax. We need a simple and accessible system to get people through this crisis.

We are proposing hardship support of up to $2,500 for households that have lost income and a waiver of break fees for people who have no hope of being able to continue to pay their high rents.

If we are all in this together, we need to support each other and support each other equally.

Julia Finn is the Shadow Minister for Consumer Protection, Shadow Minister for Carers, and the Member for Granville. Facebook Twitter


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