Western Australia’s emergency residential rent laws have been extended for another six months, barring rent increases and evictions amid the ongoing economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key points:

  • The moratorium has been extended until March 28 for “market stability”
  • Advocacy groups had been bracing for an “inundation” of evictions
  • But WA’s real estate institute says it will discourage investment

The McGowan Government’s moratorium was due to come to an end this month, but has been extended to March 28 next year to help “preserve stability and certainty in the rental market”.

The measure is aimed at stopping renters in private and public housing, as well as tenants in residential long-stay parks and boarders and lodgers, from being dumped into the rental market.

“For residential tenancies, low vacancy rates for residential rental properties have and will continue to place upward pressure on rents,” WA’s Attorney-General John Quigley said.

Attorney General John Quigley says WA is entering a period of economic recovery.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

“Western Australia is entering a period of economic recovery, albeit with the ever present threat of a second wave of infection.

“Those who have been able to return to work are only just starting to recover and adding significant potential rental housing affordability and availability issues to their worries at this time would be an awful proposition.”

The same allowances for commercial tenants will also be extended.(ABC News: Liz Pickering)

Mr Quigley said landlords maintained the right to terminate a lease if the tenant was not paying rent and not facing COVID-19 financial hardship.

Those same allowances for commercial tenants will also be extended, but the State Government is tweaking the rules around who is eligible to include only those who meet hardship thresholds, consistent with the JobKeeper payment tests.

The commercial tenancy allowances only apply to companies who have suffered a 30 per cent reduction in turnover.

The changes will be made through regulations being drafted.

Unnecessary protection, REIWA says

Real Estate Institute of WA (REIWA) president Damian Collins said he was incredibly frustrated by the decision, saying the Government needed to be “taught an economic lesson”.

REIWA president Damian Collins says the move will only worsen the rental shortage.(ABC News: Rhiannon Shine)

“The worst thing you can do when you have a shortage of rental stock is to dissuade investors from coming back in the market,” he said.

He said REIWA estimated only two per cent of tenants were still impacted by COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, we’re going to see investors sit on the sideline … the rental shortage is only going to get worse and the only party to blame for this will be the Government.”

Rental advocates pleased with extension

Tenancy WA executive manager Carmen Acosta said the service had been bracing for an inundation of people facing evictions if the moratorium had ended on September 29 as planned.

“[They are saying] ‘I am concerned, I have lost my job, I can’t pay my rent, I have tried to negotiate — that’s not working, I am worried that my tenancy agreement is coming to an end.’

Tenancy WA’s Carmen Acosta says the extension will help keep people out of homelessness.(ABC News: Rhiannon Shine)

“This is something that the sector has been advocating for so we are absolutely pleased the Government has listened to us.

“There is no question that we have been blessed here in WA, but we also know the immediate impact that has occurred in Victoria and New South Wales — that is the sort of thing that can happen in WA at any point in time.

“And we cannot deny the unemployment rate and how it has significantly increased over the last three months, so those are the things that I would caution the likes of REIWA to really be looking at.”

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