17/12/2020 - 13:30

More relief for landlords and tenants

17/12/2020 - 13:30

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The state government will expand its Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme, with unspent grant funding to be repurposed to pay 75 per cent of rent arrears to landlords.

More than 5,700 tenants who have applied for the grant have received financial assistance of about $8 million. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

The state government will expand its Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme, with unspent grant funding to be repurposed to pay 75 per cent of rent arrears to landlords.

The scheme was established to assist tenants facing financial hardship due to COVID-19.

Today’s move to expand the scheme comes as a means to support those in paying their rent debt when the eviction and rent increase moratorium ends on March 28, 2021, as well as providing an incentive for landlords to maintain existing tenancies and prevent evictions.

The news comes as Perth's residential rental stock continues to tighten, with the vacancy rate hovering at a 40-year low

So far, more than 5,700 tenants who applied for the existing grant have received financial assistance of about $8 million, out of the allocated $30 million.

The state government said the $22 million funds remaining in the existing grant scheme would now be repurposed to provide landlords with direct one-off payments equivalent to 75 per cent of the accrued rent arrears incurred during the emergency period.

The one-off payments will be capped at $4,000 and will include any rent that was waived or deferred during the emergency period.

Commerce minister John Quigley said the grants would help tenants clear a large proportion of their rent debt and put them, along with the landlord, in a better position to negotiate an extension of their tenancy.

Mr Quigley said this would help tenants stay in their home until they can get back on their feet financially.

"The expanded grant scheme will be welcome news for many tenants and landlords who have been doing it tough due to the economic fall-out of COVID-19 and are worried about what will happen when the moratorium on evictions comes to an end,” he said.

"Many landlords have also been suffering financially, having to accept reduced or deferred rent arrangements during this challenging time, so the extra assistance is designed to offset the deficit in their income.”

A key condition of landlords receiving the funding is that a fixed-term tenancy agreement of six months or longer is entered into with the existing tenant at a reasonable rent that is affordable.

To be eligible for the new grants scheme tenants must have lost their job or 50 per cent of their income due to COVID-19, or were in receipt of a Centrelink payment (excluding JobKeeper) on or after March 20 2020, have less than $10,000 in savings and pay more than 25 per cent of their income in rent per week, among other criteria.

Treasurer Ben Wyatt said the state government was committed to its investment in COVID relief measures.

"While the need for the original rent assistance scheme wasn't as large as expected, it's now provided an opportunity to re-direct the remainder of the $30 million allocation to prevent some evictions when the emergency period ends on March 28 next year,” Mr Wyatt said.

"I hope that the re-purposing of the funds will result in tenants at financial risk staying in their rental homes longer, giving them more time to find employment and for their incomes to recover."

Applications for the existing grant scheme will close on December 31, 2020.

Tenants can apply and get further details via the COVID rent grant website. Applications for the new grant scheme will open on January 4, 2021 and close on June 28, 2021.

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