WA commercial property to share in $155m coronavirus relief

Aerial view of Perth’s Elizabeth Quay at sunset.
Aerial view of Perth’s Elizabeth Quay at sunset.

The West Australian Government has announced a $154.5 million rental relief package to help tenants, landlords and the construction industry impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

The package includes $30 million for grants of up to $2000 to help struggling residential tenants pay rent, $100 million in land tax concessions for commercial landlords and $24.5 million to support the building the construction industry in maintaining a skilled workforce.

Under the scheme, renters who have lost their jobs or are facing financial hardship can apply for grants of up to four weeks’ rent, to a maximum of $2000. The grants are paid directly to landlords to contribute towards the tenant’s rental payments.

In addition, land tax grants equivalent to 25% of a landlord’s 2019-2020 tax bill are available for commercial landlords who freeze a minimum of three months’ rent and outgoings for small businesses that have suffered a 30% reduction in turnover due to COVID-19.

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The move comes in addition to the WA Government’s six-month freeze on rent rises, a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions from March 30 and a $25 million small business rent relief package announced last month.

WA is the latest state to introduce such a scheme, following New South Wales and Victoria, Queensland and the ACT.

WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt said the scheme provides targeted assistance for both tenants and landlords of commercial and residential properties at a time beset by the financial pressures of COVID-19.

“These are important supports for landlords and tenants,” he said.

“Grants will be available on a first come, first served basis to encourage landlords to negotiate early with tenants who are doing it tough as a result of COVID-19.

“This assistance will help to preserve tenancies by helping eligible tenants continue to pay rent and will reduce the risk of exposing landlords to financial hardship in meeting their mortgage obligations.”

The residential initiative will be available to tenants and sub-tenants who have lost their jobs, who have applied to Centrelink for income support, have less than $10,000 in savings and are paying at least 25% of their income in rent.

Shelter WA chief executive Michelle Mackenzie welcomed the rental relief package saying it would help many WA households experiencing financial hardship to maintain housing security during the pandemic, with self-isolating at home a key defence to reducing the risk of transmission.

“This package gives landlords the reassurance that tenants affected by COVID-19 can access support from the State Government to help pay their rent,” she said. “However, we know that some renters will still be doing it tough.

“It is important that tenants and landlords communicate with each other and come to agreements that work for both parties. Now, more than ever before, we need to work together as COVID-19 impacts are felt across the community.”

Mackenzie said Shelter WA will continue to work with the sector and the State Government to address critical community issues about housing insecurity.

“Whilst this is a relief for people who rent, we need urgent investment in housing and services for people who are experiencing homelessness and do not have a place to call home.”

This article appeared as “WA announces rental relief for residential and commercial tenancies”.