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Rent assistance still required in WA, says REIWA

Urgent legislation to implement a range of measures to minimise financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on tenants and landlords of both commercial and residential tenancies will be introduced into WA State Parliament this week – but these do not include the required clarity on rent relief for tenants in WA.

REIWA President Damian Collins said while the Institute and its members have been supportive of helping those who are struggling due to the impacts of COVID-19, it’s still important that clear guidelines are put in place to stop the pandemic encouraging people to take advantage of the situation.

“We are pleased the WA Government has provided guidelines because the industry has been in a state of uncertainty since this was first announced,” Mr Collins said.

“Some elements of the announcement we strongly support. Importantly the announcement makes it clear that rent is still payable by all tenants and the tenants will have to pay back their rent once they are financially stable again.

It is pleasing to see a free fast-tracked dispute resolution system will be provided by Consumer Protection, which will help both owners and tenants who are suffering financial hardship sort out any issues without the costly and lengthy court process.

“The industry understands that we must come together during this time and while we support a prohibition on the eviction of tenants affected by COVID-19, a blanket ban on all evictions except in very limited circumstances is a step too far,” Mr Collins said.

“The decision to allow all leases to be broken, regardless of whether or not the tenant has been impacted by COVID-19 is also an unnecessary addition.

“Despite many initiatives currently before government, it’s disappointing that the Premier did not announce any form of rental assistance payment to help property owners that are struggling financially due to tenants being unable to pay their rent.

“The government is expecting property owners to carry the burden and while the debt is still payable by the tenant, in some cases the property owner will never be able to recover the debt,” Mr Collins said.

“Most other states have a rent assistance package in place and just yesterday New South Wales announced a $440 million package for residential and commercial tenants and owners.

“Western Australian tenants and property owners deserve a helping hand from the State Government during this difficult time.”

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