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The unfair, lazy policy will continue and it's a trifecta of loss

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

The Government has now explicitly stated that if/when future COVID-19 waves crash down on Tasmania that it will, once again, make it legal for tenants to not pay their rent and will remove the ability for inspections to occur.

This statement has been made in a reading speech given by Minster Elise Archer which also highlights that landlords will soon be forced to accept a repayment plan devised by the Residential Tenancy Commissioner. What the speech also features is absolutely nothing – deafeningly silence – on the fact that the Government knowingly introduced legislation that left the door wide open for the ‘no eviction’ protections to be abused – and abused it has most certainly has been.

There are major omissions in this speech, and in communication from the Government more broadly about tenancies, that go something like this; thank you to the hundreds of landlords who have been hit with the full force by the Government’s decision to exclusively target them as the only party who does not have to be paid for the service they provide. Thank you to the many landlords who are now thousands in outstanding rent, especially those who have also lost their own job. Thank you to the many landlords who have received no rent for several months from tenants have abused the lazy legislation. Thank you to the many landlords who are attempting to repair skyrocketing damage as inspections were curfewed and dog adoption centres emptied.

It is widely accepted that it is good practice to acknowledge and learn from your mistakes. The judgement the Government has exercised around residential tenancies has been atrociously short-sighted and unfair. There has clearly been no reflection, no acknowledgement that it could have been managed better, no listening to feedback, no seeing the consequences, no change – it will be more of the same.

Now the Government has laid its cards on the table, it is up to landlords to decide where to from here as, despite the Government’s view that they will use private rentals as substitutes for their lack of social housing whenever it suits them, landlords still own the property. And every action as a reaction, and to assume that this disgrace will be without consequence is naïve. We will now undoubtedly see landlords ending leases as soon as allowable, leaving properties empty, returning them to holiday homes, considering short-stay, and raising rents to make up for lost income, big damage clean-ups, landlord insurance hikes and massive land tax bills.

Landlords are already selling to cashed up mainlanders and taking their properties off the rental market. And when the current protections lift, many more will follow suit, especially now that the Government has shown that its disregard for landlords as people was not an oversight during a stressful time when something needed to be done quickly, but rather what they consider to be fair and reasonable action. Let me be clear – landlords to do not agree.

Landlords are first to be hit but, but it is a trifecta of loss. Tenants lose as less private rental properties on the market, off-the-chart risk to factor in and higher expenses means higher rents and busier rental open homes. Landlords will also avoid renting to those with low income stability, such as hospitality and tourism workers and visa holders. The Government will pay for its poor judgement as the demand on income support and social housing will increase dramatically as private rentals disappear.

It does not need to be this way. The Government should take on the responsibility for paying rent when a tenant genuinely cannot in extreme events like COVID-19. This approach would bring housing and income stability, boost market confidence, help repair the tenant-landlord relationship and make the huge debts that tenants will carry much more manageable as it would be the Government being paid back, not your local plumber, aged care worker, or hairdresser.

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