Victorian government announces $500m coronavirus rent relief package

Premier Daniel Andrews will announce the latest coronavirus management plan on Sunday.
Premier Daniel Andrews will announce the latest coronavirus management plan on Sunday.

Struggling landlords and tenants have welcomed the highly-anticipated $500 million rent package announced by the Victorian government today.

It comes after weeks of calls for specific rental relief reforms to help tenants and landlords during the coronavirus pandemic.

The massive package includes $420 million of land tax relief to commercial and residential landlords who discount rents for tenants facing pandemic-related hardship.

Another $80 million in rental assistance is on offer to tenants who remain under rental stress even after mediation.

Real Estate Institute of Victoria president Leah Calnan says the industry welcomes the announcement and says it will help achieve fairer negotiations.

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“This announcement means everybody who is in financial hardship will receive some sort of relief and we’re really pleased about that,” Calnan says.

“These are also clearer guidelines for property managers, who have been stressed about not having clearer guidelines until this point in time.”

It comes after many Victorian tenants cried out for more government support after their rent relief requests were ignored by landlords.

Tenants Victoria chief executive Jennifer Beveridge says they had previously received more than 100 emails a week from renters concerned about their situation.

While some white-knight landlords had already offered to reduce or suspend rental payments for their vulnerable tenants, Beveridge says two-thirds of the those who had contacted Tenants Victoria “were turned down when seeking rent relief from their real estate agent or landlord”.

Questions remain for landlords who don’t pay land tax. Picture: Tony Gough

Barry Plant chief executive Mike McCarthy says the package still has gaps which will leave some landlords, particularly those who don’t pay land tax, in the dark.

“We welcome any support for landlords and tenants, both parties are doing it tough at the moment,” McCarthy says.

“Like most measures, what we need is clarity around how this is going to apply and I’m not sure we have that yet.”

WB Simpson director Richard Simpson says clearer guidelines will assist commercial and resident property managers during tough mediations.

He told the Herald Sun many self-funded retiree investors had been “screaming for land tax relief” if forced to reduce rents.

There needed to be more clarity on how to end a tenant’s lease if their business closes during the six month moratorium, he added.

Consumer Affairs minister Marlene Kairouz says the “unprecedented measures” will help tenants “cover the rent and keep a roof over their head”.

Premier Daniel Andrews encouraged landlords and tenants to sit down together and “do the right thing”.

He defined rental stress as anybody paying more than 30% of their income on toward their lease.

A six-month moratorium on evictions and a pause on rent increases for the next six months due to the pandemic had already been announced by the state government.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also unveiled a nationwide support plan for commercial tenants with an annual turnover of less than $50 million, which included rental waivers and an evictions moratorium.

— with Mikaela Day

This article from the Herald Sun originally appeared as “Coronavirus: Victorian government unveils $500 million rent package”.