Supporting Tenants During COVID: Adjournment Matter

  • Click here to read this adjournment matter- and the Minister’s response – on the Parliament of Victoria website.

I direct my adjournment matter to the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation.

The action that I seek is for her to provide me with a detailed update of the measures that have been put in place to support residential tenants during the global pandemic.

The year 2020 has been very challenging for many Victorians, with great uncertainty and insecurity. It has been particularly difficult for many renters in my community of Ballarat as well as across Victoria.

Prior to the COVID pandemic in the Ballarat local government area we had approximately 25 per cent of households renting privately-one-quarter of all households in my community. For many residential tenants who lost their jobs or who had their hours reduced due to COVID, making the rent each month has been a cause of much worry and anxiety. Fear of losing their homes and having nowhere to go was a frightening prospect for individuals, couples and families.

Getting to the other side of this pandemic was hard, and being fearful of losing your home or not making the rent on time is something that no-one should be worried about while we work to stop the spread of this virus. I appreciate that this is a two-way street and it requires cooperation between landlords and tenants to work together to reach mutually agreeable positions.

This year has demonstrated just how important having a roof over your head can be. That is why I am proud that the Andrews Labor government is also supporting residential tenants by making a record level of investment of $5.3 billion to provide 12 000 new houses over the next four years, including a significant commitment to provide 9300 new social housing homes to make sure that the tenants have safe, secure and affordable housing.

I look forward to the minister’s response and reporting back to my community of Ballarat about how the Andrews Labor government is delivering for and supporting tenants in my electorate of Wendouree and also making Victoria not only a stronger and fairer place to live but place to work, as our budget this week has clearly outlined.

The issue of tenancy and residential tenants has been a priority of the Andrews Labor government over the last six years, and I am incredibly proud that we will continue to support tenants as well as landlords in our agenda to make Victoria an even better state.

 

Response from the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation (7th January 2021) –

The Victorian Government appreciates the enormous impact that COVID-19 and associated public health restrictions have had, and will continue to have, on businesses, workers, landlords, tenants, and the wider community.

On 25 April 2020, emergency measures were introduced by the Victorian Government to implement the national moratorium on evictions and protect Victorian tenants and landlords from the economic impact of COVID-19, as well as to help resolve disputes between landlords and tenants through the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service. As part of the wider support package, the government also established a $120 million rental assistance fund to provide rent relief grants of up to $3,000 for eligible tenants impacted by COVID-19. Eligible tenants must have less than $10,000 in savings, be paying at least 30 per cent of their income in rent and have entered into, and registered, a rent reduction agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria.

In addition, a variety of government support packages are currently available for people and businesses impacted by COVID-19 including financial, job and business support. Financial support includes a $450 isolation test payment to support workers who have had a COVID-19 test and are self-isolating until they receive their results, and a one-off $1,500 worker support payment for Victorian workers who are required to self‑isolate or quarantine for 14 days due to COVID-19.

Commencement of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 (RTAA), immediately after the eviction moratorium on 29 March 2021, will provide for reforms to protect tenants from rent increases and increase security of tenure. These include a structured rent arrears process for the non‑payment of rent and a ‘reasonable and proportionate’ test before the granting of possession orders.

The Government will continue to closely monitor the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the rental sector and vulnerable tenants, as part of ongoing planning for transition out of the eviction moratorium to COVID normal under the RTAA. As part of the broader planning process, the Department of Justice and Community Safety will soon be consulting with key stakeholders on proposed transitional arrangements, including the making of transitional regulations.

 

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