Victorian real estate agents are urging the Andrews’ government to consider fair and just rules for landlords, who have become “the forgotten people” in an industry already on its knees, thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns.
The appeal comes on the back of thousands of Victorian tenants essentially enjoying rent-free living with no accountability needed, while also receiving COVID-19 government relief.
According to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV), tenants are entitled to $3,000 to help them pay their rent as well as a potential rent reduction from their landlord, with reports that some tenants who have already vacated their rental are still receiving this cash splash.
In comparison, government land tax concessions for residential property owners are little more than a drop in the ocean, with land valued at $800,000 giving back less than $500 to its owner.
As well, tenants don’t need to provide evidence of COVID-19 financial hardship to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) with the onus on property managers or landlords to prove tenants are not paying rent.
Any court orders against tenants are often held over until the end of the moratorium period, which could now stretch into 2021.
REIV CEO Gil King described the September 13 extension of a crippling state lockdown as a “kick in the guts’ for residential landlords, many of whom are hardworking mum and dad investors.
“A property owner’s savings and hard work is somehow of lesser perceived value than that of a tenant,” he said.
“People who have worked hard for many years to secure their family’s future are now being dictated to about how much they can charge someone to live in their property, a property they own and maintain.
“The market demand and supply determine rental prices and should continue to do so; legislating against this will not benefit anyone.”
The REIV is particularly concerned about the lack of due process, oversight, and enforcement to ensure no one takes undue advantage of the situation.
“I’m well aware many tenants had been financially affected by COVID-19,” Mr King said.
‘We know this because our members serve both property owners and tenants.
“But there is significant evidence of some tenants taking advantage of these circumstances, rendering property owners powerless to fight against the imbalance.”
On this note, REIV president Leah Calnan said many agents had told her of tenants who simply refused to pay their rent, either in full, or at all.
“We also have many accounts of tenants owing thousands of dollars (and) this money is unlikely to be recovered,” she said.
“The moratorium was supposed to support those in financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, not create greater hardship and financial bankruptcy for property owners.”
Several Melbourne agents have added their concerns to those of REIV saying that while the government has focused its concerns on tenants, little has been done to assist and protect landlords.
“The government has forgotten that in every transaction, there’s more than just a tenant,” one agent said.
“They’ve also forgotten that if a tenant chooses not to pay rent, because the government allows them to, the landlord can’t service the mortgage.
“There is an argument now that landlords are public housing.
“When you say this, some people get really narky but at the end of the day, tenants seem to be winning all the battles.”
The agent acknowledged that having a roof over your head was a basic human right.
However, this argument had since been flipped to that of the provision of housing being essential under human rights – but the act of housing wasn’t.
“This is basically saying that if you’ve got a roof over your head, you’re covered so don’t worry about selling it,” the agent said.
“But people sold before stage 4 came in and now, they can’t buy.”