Government decrees six-month rental strike

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the states and territories will impose a six-month moratorium on renters being evicted on account of financial distress resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. He says landlords need to work with their tenants and banks to come up with agreements that are of benefit to all parties. The moratorium proposal is part of the notion of ‘hibernating’ businesses until the worst of the pandemic is over:

“The most significant of those is that states and territories will be moving to put a moratorium on evictions of persons as a result of financial distress … for the next six months,” [Prime Minister Scott Morrison] said…

Mr Morrison underlined the need for landlords to work with their tenants and banks on solutions, which should start immediately.

“We need you to sit down, talk to each other and work this out,” he said…

The Real Estate Institute of NSW has slammed the idea:

Real Estate Institute of NSW chief executive Tim McKibbin said the industry body feared the government would remove tenants’ obligations to pay their rent…

“By removing the obligation of a tenant to pay rent, merely transfers the difficult financial circumstances of the tenant to the landlord.”

Renters in Australia generally have lower incomes than home owners and usually work in less secure employment. Therefore, they are highly exposed to any acute economic fallout from the coronavirus.

We also know that over one-third of mortgages in Australia are for investment purposes, many of whom would likely be unable to meet their repayments if their tenants stopped paying rent.

Rather than resorting to convoluted measures like rental moratoriums, the federal government should instead provide direct cash assistance on a non-discriminatory basis to every adult Australian via a temporary universal basic income (UBI) of $1500 a fortnight. This way, almost every Australian would be able to meet their basic living expenses while the economy is placed in ‘hibernation’ to fight the coronavirus.

A temporary UBI is the simplest and best form of support during these unprecedented time.

Leith van Onselen

Comments

    • Problem with this argument, is if a universal income is put in, you will never be able to rescind it… even when things improve, because here will always be someone who is in dire circumstances.

      At the end of the day, who pays for this nice bit of socialism? Patently unaffordable, even at the best of times. Government needs to save its funds for massive amounts income support, which is means tested, and savings.

      Always need to see second and third order effects. Not a simply fix…

  1. We don’t need a UBI, we have a rich property investor class who all, on the advice of a spruiker at a seminar, piled into property to avoid being reliant on Government welfare later in life.

    Well, they’re now later in life and they’re in a great position to give some of those taxes they avoided for the last two decades back to society! They don’t need the welfare.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      if the Guvie doesn’t implement a proper UBI that goes to everyone this coronavirus is going to bring the entire country’s economy down and put us into a depression for a decade just like the lead up to World war 2.

    • Given the squeals we’re hearing it seems there are plenty of busted arse losers with a wafer thin safety net. Hilarious seeing these clowns admonishing renters for not having a 6 months safety net, when they’re operating with hundreds of thousands/millions in debt and are panicked the prospect of 6 month period themselves.

    • Maybe the Government should announce that it will be reallocating the Negative Gearing losses it pays out each year to the renters instead.

  2. Love in the time of Corona

    It is incredible what a fuq up they’ve made of this. you do the UBI and let the market sort everything else out! All those decades they spent convincing themselves that they were the inspiring leaders of free, innovative, responsive, entrepreneurial, efficient behaviour in a market economy, (while creating a kleptocracy) and they are incapable of seeing the simple most effective solution because… leftist. They’ve simply never applied themselves in their working lives to delivering an equitable, thought out national policy so now they’re completely flummoxed.

  3. Diogenes the CynicMEMBER

    Agreed. But in a way this is will end the property madness in Australia. Once people stop paying rent, all those “landlords” will suddenly realise what a crappy investment property is – illiquid, high costs to transact and too many eggs in one basket. Heard a few of these landlords on the radio this morning – all of them panicking some of them are retirees with one or two properties funding their retirement – they are toast.

  4. Where’s mikemb?

    The government knows full well about the likely demographics of the people at greatest risk of eviction. If these people are evicted, they flee back to the countries they came from. Business in in Australia is so dependent on these illegal / grey workers that it would be even more disastrous if they fled Australia. They earn cash and they pay that cash to whom? Yes, landlords, Mums and Dads, Aussies who are having a go. Property price plunge protection in play again.

    Real Estate Institute of NSW chief executive Tim McKibbin is either disingenuously virtue signalling to his brethren or he is too stupid to know what’s good for him.

    • Lenny Hayes for PMMEMBER

      Once flights start up I think they will be gone in any case.

      Their jobs/businesses on the margin of the economy appear to have disappeared overnight, so what do they have to fall back on ?.

      • adelaide_economistMEMBER

        According to news.com.au, Qatar has announced 28 additional flights to Australia, with according to the story, 48,000 seats. Now the question is, are they bringing people back in (Australian citizens returning? New migrants because we have to keep up the demand for public services in times of need?) or to take people back home?

  5. Agreed. The UBI should just be paid to everyone on a temporary basis, but should be taxable on a special tax basis. That is, a special tax rate of between 0 and 200% to be assessed after the dust has settled, with those hard hit getting it tax free and those who keep good high paying jobs copping the highest rate and hence providing some cross subsidy.
    Money printing galore required of course and we’ll wait for later problems from that to pop up.

    • That’s not really a UBI then is it? The “U” stands for universal. The savings accruing from a UBI is that you don’t need a bureaucracy to determine eligibility. Everyone gets it.

      It should be funded by changing the tax code so that essentially for high earners you lose $20k of deductions (and for those who have been too clever by half on their tax they will lose more and those straight up and down folks who don’t have many deductions will be better off). Perhaps a version of the USA’s AMT (alternative minimum tax) where the is effectively a cap on how much deduction you can claim – this would also fix neg gearing, effectively the ATO lets you neg gear one modest property but after that deductions are capped!).

    • So those doing cash in hand jobs i.e no tax paid to ATO get all of UBI for free. Great.

  6. adelaide_economistMEMBER

    My heart really bleeds for the landlords. After what would now be close to two decades of copping sh*t eating grins and “bad luck for you” from this country’s newly minted property millionaires*, it seems as expected the emperor has no clothes. I’ve met so many people over the years, many quite a bit younger than me, who all had at least one if not two IPs and they were so gungho about property you couldn’t say a bad word about it without either being accused of sour grapes or them being weirdly aggressive (about their ‘can’t lose’ strategy, oddly).

    Now mostly they’ve done very well (up to now), I grant them, but what does it say about someone who has “earned” a hundred grand a year for a decade simply by owning debt when they are apoplectic with rage and fear at the thought of the equivalent of a few months of an empty property – a scenario any ‘investor’ in property should clearly be prepared for. You know, if they were actual ‘investors’ and not speculators.

    *in gross terms, not net

    • darklydrawlMEMBER

      Yeah, I don’t get this either. It is an investment, and that comes with RISK and contingency plans in case it all goes wrong.

      The risk is you might lose money on that investment. Hell, I don’t see any of these halfwits begging the Government to prop up my share portfolio so I can avoid taking a loss. If your investment is losing you money you either wear the losses or offload it quickly – not beg for a Government backstop so you are still in profit.

      If you choose to put all of your money into a single illiquid, binary and expensive asset class (with zero safety buffers too) than maybe this ‘investing’ business isn’t for you.

      WTAF is with the property obession in this country? The belief that property investors cannot lose money or make dumb decsions and must be saved at all costs?

      I truly hope it burns to the ground. It is the only way to change this attitude and belief. If that takes a depression and 30% unemployment then bring it on.

      • Govt is bailing-out (aka giving money to) every other business affected by the coronavirus. Why not similarly support the shelter shortage shyster’s business ventures?

      • I haven’t seen anyone say that landlords should be bailed out. Renters shouldn’t be given free housing at their expense though.

    • Maybe the govt could target the stimulus for renters to buy the distressed property they live in for a fair, new mark-to-market price.

  7. By making such an announcement, the LNP idiots just put another torpedo into the sinking hulk of infestors dreams. Gap down another 30% no that news

  8. So where are the banks in this domino set-up? Who will be the next domino after the banks?

    • Imagine, maybe there is no other domino.

      Imagine that the banks fell over and… that’s it… nothing else happened. Life went on.

      Imagine that?

      What if “the banking crisis” is just a bogeyman story….

      • Just the sound of millions of superannuants , crying out in terror then falling silent

      • I don’t quite get this. I’m willing to believe the banks will not be allowed to fall over. I’m not willing to believe nothing would happen if they did fall over.
        – bank shareholders gone
        – people who might need a loan to buy a house gone
        – businesses who could use a loan gone

        = entire economy gone.

        • Something would happen. Loans would become unavailable for the most part. Assets would concentrate into the hands of those able to purchase outright for a fraction of current values, wealth would drift upwards as always, just a bit faster than usual.

          • Well, that last bit may well be true. But it is not relevant.

            It’s not like the banks are there to slow the drift of wealth upwards, in the first place, is it?

            You need rather conscious redistribution policy to stop that. Nobody has the balls for that, obviously. So might as well have people’s faces ripped off in a bank calamity, what do I care?!

        • Wrinkled Sachs

          Banks create loans which are paid back (money created, money removed) with interest which is the banks profit.

          Remove the banks and just lend directly to people.

          Seems pretty simple – especially if we have no cash – no atms, no branches who cares.

  9. I just hope that post-crisis, the government will sit down and look at our tax regime. This will be the time for wholesale changes and to rid ourselves of all these loop holes and protection for vested interests. My question is, will the LNP be willing to do this? Or will it take a change of government to make this happen?

  10. Interesting, very little clarification here (and very poor communication from govt)…. any detail once discussed on this policy always reverts back to discussing commercial tenancies.

    The media reporting doesn’t distinguish between the two and there appears to be scant detail on whether it is for residential as well (yet?).

    • adelaide_economistMEMBER

      I’ve noticed the same. Unfortunately it’s hard to know if it’s deliberate obfuscation or just the typically terrible quality of reporting due to our very poor journalism standards. I would suggest a significant portion of the people reporting on current economic policy have no context for which they are reporting it, nor an understanding of the potential flow-on impacts. They are great at firing off tweets with snarky comments about things they don’t like though.

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      Most people are assuming it’ll be the same as Tasmania, where all eviction is banned even if thr tenant is ripping the house apart.

  11. The UBI idea certainly has a lot of merit.

    Once again I stress the importance of understanding that money is just an overlay on real resources. If we now have a real resource problem, then money cannot solve it.

    Help me out here: Smoko orders all the gyms, eating-out, recreational places to close so all those workers have less money. But who now has more money? The people who do other jobs and used to buy those things. Can this extra money be taken and given to those in need? Help me out. Or is brand new fresh money needed?

    On another note. There is a serious problem with the eviction ban. Decent struggling tenants will try to do the right thing and pay their rent, however dodgy tenants – the type who leave with damage and unpaid bills – will no doubt exploit this opportunity.

    For example if they used to pay $300pw but have lost some work and now realistically could pay $200, they will probably try to get away with paying $0 for as long as they can. It will be very hard to sort out these scammers from the deserving poor.

    • Yes broad money is set to explode especially with debt defaults off the table

      In a capitalist model all of it eventually ends up in the hands of the owners of capital (regardless of UBI handouts)

      Which is why UBI is a terrible idea promoted by the wealthy

      Nationalisations and government job guarantee would be the best option

      • Jumping jack flash

        “Nationalisations and government job guarantee[s]” are indeed the only solution but these come much, much later after someone who has a plan comes into power through the desperation of the people.

    • Jumping jack flash

      Excellent point.

      This is the reason why the unemployed personal trainers and baristas will be absorbed into food deliveries, shelf stacking and personal shopping once lockdown occurs and the rest of the people with all this extra money saved from not paying gym memberships or buying coffee will use it to panic buy toilet paper and pasta.

      Good times ahead. Watch the numbers.
      14% unemployment? Not on your life. We’ll be lucky to crack 6%. Eyebrows Johnny knew what he was doing.

      I have a theory that all this stimulus was required virus or not because the debt simply wasn’t growing fast enough for too long, and this is just a convenient excuse. Time will tell.

  12. So the truely overextended, renters and rentiers, may need to liquidate. Their time has been extended by defaulting without immediate penalty. How long can they hold still?

    We were sliding downwards before this. This may bring the UBI-like solutions that otherwise may have been denied. Japan grinds lower without these. Is this a watershed moment to stop our own Japanification? Indications to date from the government are ‘no’.

    So we get minimised defaults, a drop now (of some unknowable magnitude – with drops and jumps while this thing lingers for more than 6 months) and then a slow grind onwards for a few decades. Japan saw a big shock and drop in asset prices at the outset, was this because over leveraged corporates finally ran out of imagination regarding future gains? Will Aussie households finally see this at this time?

    • Japan bubble was many times more excessive than ours

      And the boj went too little too slow

      RBA will go harder and faster

  13. Also, Suncorp has just pulled the lost rental clauses from all it’s new landlord policies effective…. asap I presume. I also presume all the Insurers would be scrambling to assess this. I doubt a single insurance risk model would have built in the scenario for mass, national rental defaults on account of a deliberate government policy setting.

    I also reviewed a number of landlord policies over the weekend and there is certainly some grey area as to whether any of these policies will actually need to pay out and by how much (on account of the fact that many insure either absconding tenants or those subsequently evicted by tribunal or the courts…… of which neither may technically trigger here!) .

    Food for thought.

    • “those subsequently evicted by tribunal or the courts…… of which neither may technically trigger here”
      They will be evicted eventually. Freezing all evictions forever would kill the entire rental market.

      • Yeah, i thought that too, only if it is an eviction moratorium, any kind of “you don’t need to pay” policy would kill that claim as the tenant may argue there was no basis to evict.

        Also, there is the “if a court releases your tenants from their agreement due to hardship” clause. If that occurs, the lost rental payout is seriously capped vs the other claims (4 weeks vs 20 weeks for one policy). Unless the govt policy is very very specific (which it wont be), The insurers will no doubt argue that any government policy that sets aside requirements for payment or the ability to evict based on COVID-19 is tantamount to a court releasing that tenant on hardship grounds….. therefore capping there lost rental income liability to just 1 month in some policies. In those circumstances, the owners would be better off if the tenants trashed the joint, at least they would then have access to maybe a years loss rent!

  14. Forrest GumpMEMBER

    We also know that over one-third of mortgages in Australia are for investment purposes, many of whom would likely be unable to meet their repayments if their tenants stopped paying rent.

    Note:
    At any point in time, there are over 100,000 vacant rentals across the country.
    And many remain empty for 3-6 months without a tenant.

    So now we have Coronavirus and a rent strike, there is no difference?

    Landlords can still continue to claim Negative Gearing regardless of being paid rent or no rent, vacancy or no vacancy….There is no change.

    In fact, the bigger the loss, the bigger the tax return!

    • “And many remain empty for 3-6 months without a tenant”
      This is BS, at least in sydney for the last 20 years.

    • You are correct regarding teh negative gearing losses where bigger is always better. Unfortunately some may may find they run out of taxable income with which to apply the NG losses.

  15. Jumping jack flash

    I seriously don’t understand why they didn’t offer QE-cheapened debt to tenants to “buy” their leases with… it would have solved so many problems.

  16. Arthur Schopenhauer

    This ‘sounds’ like a solution, but what happens if one or other of the parties does not negotiate in good faith.
    Again, the states are on the hook to execute a federal idea that is very difficult to police.

    • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

      If there is no eviction, there is no negotiating power with the owner.

      This will end in tears. This is probably one of Morrison’s worst moves.

  17. Flick off my first email negotiating rent with agent today. Will keep y’all updated how it goes

  18. Totes BeWokeMEMBER

    This is another ridiculous Morrison policy on the fly. He is not performing under pressure by any stretch.

    I’ll claim insurance like every other owner.

    Standby for Morrison to reverse this dumb unfair policy.

    • darklydrawlMEMBER

      Not sure the insurance thing will work. Those insurance providers are (at the very minute) double checking the fine print and clauses on the landlord packages. I am confident plenty of them will find something in there that limits (or prevents) payouts in these circumstances.

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      You can’t claim insurance until they have vacated, which will be in 6 month’s time.

      If your renewal period is within that time, the insurance company can refuse to renew, or remove that clause during renewal.

      • Yeah that’s the fear, plenty of wriggle wrong for an insurer looking at devastatingly large payouts. Rental insurance premiums will need to skyrocket of the back of this.

  19. Totes BeWokeMEMBER

    This is the kind of policy that will lead to people taking things into their own hands.

    I will not be paying a mortgage, now or later, on an investment I can’t offer to the market for market rent.

    • You should definitely stop paying your mortgage.
      That’ll show them you’re the man.

      • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

        Pretty much what I’m saying. I will not behave rationally, and don’t expect others to either.

        • Well if you do you either have balls or have genuinely run out of moolah and so have to.
          I tend to be pretty straight laced about these things as I spend too much time (often way too much) trying to anticipate future fall out from an immediate action.

          • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

            I’m in a great position, but this makes me furious. It is grossly unfair on those of us that go through life doing the right thing.

            I rent too BTW.

    • I struggle to understand why you rent out your mortgaged property yet rent someone elses? Why don’t you remove some complexity and just service your own debt? Or is there some rorting involved you aren’t divulging?

  20. darren jones real estate getting on the front foot ( on the neck of renters)

    i just recieved the following email.

    THIS IS A GENERAL INFORMATION EMAIL SENT TO ALL OUR TENANTS. THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS EMAIL IS BASED ON CURRENT INFORMATION AND MAY CHANGE WITH FURTHER GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENTS. IF THIS OCCURS I WILL PROVIDE A FURTHER UPDATE.
    Last night the Prime Minister made an announcement which affects residential tenancies during the COVID-19 emergency. The announcement was that a moratorium was being placed on evictions due to hardship as a result of the COVID-19 virus. It is vitally important for you to understand that this is a delay only of the eviction process due to rental arrears it is not a waiving of your rental obligations.
    It is important to maintain your current rental payments as best you can during this time as any shortfall you are unable to pay when the rent becomes due will remain a debt to be repaid once you are in a position to do so. This is no different to how the banks will be dealing with landlords and their mortgages, with interest continuing to accrue and at this stage any landlord that applies for a delay will have this recorded as a hardship default on their credit report (this may change but as it is it has serious implications for landlords). It is necessary for all tenants to understand that as an agent acting on behalf of the landlord we must continue to follow the processes as allowed by law, we must do this to ensure the Landlord’s insurance policy is not invalidated by failure to act on arrears. So whilst you are safe from eviction for 6 months and we sympathise with any tenant that finds themselves in difficulty during this period, we may be required to seek orders through VCAT so as to maintain the Landlords Insurance policy.
    I have already spoken to some tenants who are now experiencing difficulties due to a change in employment status over the past week. I will contact all of those tenants over the next few days to discuss what arrangements we can make to ensure you meet your obligations as best you can.
    We have a “Tenancy Financial Hardship Application” that can be emailed to you if required. Please email your property manager (@darrenjones.com.au; @darrenjones.com.au; @darrenjones.com.au) for a copy. If you fall into difficulty and need to discuss a payment arrangement please complete this form and email to me and I will then discuss your situation with your landlord. At this stage, I believe to maintain the landlords insurance any request for a hardship arrangement will need to be confirmed by a VCAT ordered payment plan which you as a tenant may seek at a VCAT hearing as part of the rent arrears process.
    During these difficulties it is important that we all, tenants, landlords and agents communicate and work together to ensure that we are all in a good position once life returns to normal.
    You will also be aware that the government has already put significant financial support in place and this will be added to over the coming days with a further support package to be announced. Centrelink can be accessed online for applications through your [www.my.gov.au](http://www.my.gov.au/) account, and you may be entitled to early access to some of your superannuation which you can apply for through the Taxation Office website [www.ato.gov.au](http://www.ato.gov.au/) .
    As an industry we will be seeking further clarification on the prime ministers’ announcement and I expect the Victorian premier will address this matter in the coming days. At this stage I do not believe there is any need for concern, the government has offered significant financial help so far and has indicated more is on the way. Together with the right advice we will get through these times.
    If you would like to contact me to discuss this matter please do not hesitate to email me. You will appreciate that this time is extremely hectic and I ask that you email rather than call me, my commitment to you is if I receive your email during business hours I will get back to you via phone or email that day, although not necessarily within business hours. Emails received out of normal business hours will be addressed the next business day.
    In summary I believe with the right advice we will work through this together.
    Kind regards
    ,
    Senior Property Manager

    • Thanks for the intel ikea 203.
      Out of interest do you know if VIC resi tenancy agreements allow accrual of interest on tenant arrears?
      I’m in NSW and am just curious.
      My instinct is that this is likely a significant, false and misleading over-reach by the agent asserting that interest can be charged. I would have expected that only VCAT can do this and that it would not be common.

      • Ronin8317MEMBER

        Pretty sure you cannot be charged for more than what the rent is due currently. However we will have to see the new legislation, as nobody knows what is in there right now.

      • i dont think they are specifically stating that they will charge interest, they may be equating my rent with the interest rhe landlord pays on his/her loan. but i wouldnt put it past these guys. they threatened to send me a bill for not re-signing the lease because “we would usually chage the landlord but we cant charge him if you dont sign”
        i dont have anything against my landlord. but with the number of times opinion is stated as fact in their email i think its time for me to go on rent strike

    • Lol! Most renter are going to TL:DR that one.

      They will get as far as “you cannot be evicted” and then stop reading and crack open another beer on the landlord’s nice stone bench top.

    • adelaide_economistMEMBER

      Typical real estate agent guff. They are masters of trying to structure their messages in a way that you feel boxed in or forced to comply. Suggestions of what to do are presented as fact or law, and of course the fear factor must be included lest the crazy people get any ideas about pursuing their own interests.

    • Sorry, re-read the agent’s letter you sent and the agent is not suggesting they will impose interest on the tenant.
      Back to comprehension classes for me 🙁

  21. Lenny Hayes for PMMEMBER

    So in summary ?: “Please, please do the right thing” ?.

    This should end well.

  22. Mining BoganMEMBER

    I really need to start asking to see the financial standing of potential landlords before signing a lease. It sounds like most of them are on the bones of their arse. It would be awful to end up in the streets because some donkey can’t do sums.

    • blacktwin997MEMBER

      At the moment one particular group of donkeys can’t do sums which might mean that the entire country ends up in the streets one way or another.

  23. I’m reminded of stories my grandfather used to tell me about the Great Depression. If you had a steady job and were looking for a place to rent, you could afford to be VERY fussy. People would reject a place because the kitchen bench wasn’t wide enough.. that kind of thing. He ended up renting a place that was literally across the street from the ferry wharf at Mosman, and caught the ferry to work in the city each day. Some days, he’d go home for lunch. His wife would see the ferry arriving and have lunch on the table when he walked in the door.

  24. Zombie Apocalypse

    Look at this one. Brisbane property manager suggesting that tenants use their credit cards or obtain personal loans. If I’d just lost my job this would make me want to fill their drains full of concrete, provide rooms for the homeless and then let the local meth cook use the back shed
    Tenant Financial Hardship Application

  25. The detail is going to be very NNB. if merely some sort of BS moratorium on eviction then it will be compounding the problem and kicking the bucket 6-8mths down the road. In 6 mths landlords will be issuing notices saying you owe us immediately for 6mth unpaid rent and no one will have the funds to pay. If it is a freeze – well lets see. This is compounded by the fact that much of the PAYG related stimulus is a DEFERRAL which no one gets. Businesses are going to have hefty tax bills that need to be paid in say Feb/ March/ May (depending on your payment and lodgment program). This is when the Sh1t is going to hit if it is not sorted out. Maybe Coalition figures by that time will be another party’s problem.

  26. This was a needed move to force landlords to negotiate – otherwise they would never give up their economic rents.