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Like it or not, owning and renting are different

Like many Tasmanians, landlords have housing high on the list of priorities this election. Rental owners are not to blind to the prices that scarcity has created and realise that these costs are putting ownership out of reach for many and chewing up an unsustainable portion of tenants’ income.

Our Association welcomes competition and is championing the urgent need to boost supply, especially through new builds given it is pointless moving the deck chairs on a sinking ship. Building more homes is not only fundamental to at least stabilising sale and rental prices, but also to preserving fair rights for rental owners as, when supply and demand are severely out of balance, some think that taking away the fair rights of one party is the easy fix.

Having learnt through last year’s moratorium to assume nothing, our Association has written to most parties and candidates asking what their position is on a range of residential tenancy issues. The questions we are asking are critical to restoring some faith in rental ownership as a worthwhile strategy towards financial independence where you are treated fairly by your Government and their legislation. Of course, we acknowledge that words are far from action, but we must at least try.

Unsurprisingly, one of the key questions we are asking is whether the party/candidate believes it is acceptable for people who own a rental property to be forced to accept non-payment of rent in times of emergency. We are also wanting their perspective on the unfavourable review the moratorium policy received in the report recently released by the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council, which declared it poorly designed with the potential to make the housing situation worse.

With full awareness that pushes to further erode owner rights will continue, we are also eager to understand who recognises the inherent differences between tenanting a property and owning a property. And who will stand up for protecting the fair rights of both parties and not play into the demonising of everyday Tasmanians who have taken on the risk and expensive of rental ownership.

The Greens have openly shared their plan for residential tenancies, which seeks to make it harder for owners to select good tenants (by restricting the information owners can request) and makes it harder for owners to move on bad eggs or simply access their own property (by removing the ability to end a fixed-period lease as it has run its course). Their plans is also to force owners to accept the undeniable additional risks that animals present to property (by removing the ability for owners to decide whether they house animals or not). Predictably, their recently defeated rent control policy also features.

In addition to preserving some fairness, Tasmania’s excessive Land Tax is also front of mind for landlords, with Tasmania’s playing in a whole different ballpark when you look at the national picture. The Premier’s recent announcement of minor changes to the thresholds are welcomed as a step in the right direction, but the fundamental flaws and obvious scope to improve this tax remain. Let us remember that it was the Premier himself who stated that Land Tax should be abolished and described it as “an unfair tax that stifles investment and costs jobs” when he was in Shadow Treasurer back in 2010.

Appreciating that the Government needs income and is likely waiting to see what plays out in New South Wales in relation to the Stamp Duty, Land Tax and Property Tax reform process they are currently going through, there are still immediate fixes that can help move Tasmania’s excessive Land Tax in the right direction. One of these strategies is the implementation of a surcharge on foreign owned property, which is already in place in several states. This is a no-brainer. Foreign owners are hit with a hefty surcharge, commonly around 2 per cent, on top of their bill, and we can use this income to reduce the Land Tax pain on locals.

The flow on effect of punishing landlords for housing undersupply by removing their fair rights in a buyer-seller arrangement is not only unjust but ineffective, as rental owners simply leave the market and the property changing to owner-occupier. And continuing to burden rental owners with extreme taxation is unsustainable, leading people to throw their hands in the air, sit back and hope for a pension.



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