Palaszczuk Government’s rental changes a ticking time bomb for all on the Sunshine Coast

Join me in  fighting for a fairer deal for Queensland

Times are incredibly hard for all of us, but now more than ever we need governments to be making rules that are fair to everyone. The Palaszczuk State Labor Government’s proposed changes to the way rentals work in Queensland are anything but fair.

Put simply, the Queensland Government’s new proposed ‘protections’ for renters during this COVID-19 crisis, which are probably heading to the Queensland Parliament on Wednesday 22 April, would be a ticking time bomb for renters, landlords, and homeowners all over our State. They would increase rents, leave some rentals dangerously unsafe, cause financial distress for many more people and reduce home values for all of us. We need the Palaszczuk Government to wake up to the terrible consequences of their ill-conceived scheme and change it before it becomes law next week.

I urge you to read my blog post below, and then to write to your local State Member of Parliament, or to the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk herself on thepremier@premiers.qld.gov.au and let her know that you strongly oppose these plans. And while you are doing that, c.c. me on andrew.wallace.mp@aph.gov.au so that I can follow up with the Premier on behalf of all of us. We need to show this Queensland State Government that the Sunshine Coast is united against their unfair and ill-conceived idea.

One in every five households in Australia, that’s 1.83 million families, own an investment property. The majority own just one, and most are ordinary mum and dad investors or self-funded retirees. Many have lost their jobs or seen their businesses go under. Others rely on the income from their rental to live on in their retirement. I am receiving emails and phone calls every day from landlords in distress – with no rent coming in and thousands of dollars in body corporate fees, rates, utilities and insurance still to pay. Those are fixed costs that continue to rise, year on year.

Queensland needs a plan for residential tenancies that is fair to tenants and to landlords and shares the burden of the hard times being faced by both of them equitably. There are many ways the Queensland Government’s proposals need to be improved, but I will focus on just four; rent waivers, evidence of financial distress, compulsory tenancy extensions and safety inspections.

  1. Rent waivers

Under the Palaszczuk Labor Government’s Scheme landlords will have to agree reduce the rent of tenants who are in financial distress to reflect their reduced income. However, all of the burden of this loss will be taken by the landlord. Tenants will never have to pay back a cent of the rent they did not pay, no matter what their income is when the crisis has passed. Meanwhile thousands of mum and dad landlords on the Coast who are often also struggling to make ends meet through no fault of their own will face rising costs and rising interest on their loans.

This will cause financial distress to thousands of ordinary people on the Coast now, while in the long run, it will hurt all of us.  Whether we are a tenant or a landlord, we all live in a house, unit or apartment. With fewer people investing in property, home owners will see the value of their investment fall, while landlords’ extra costs will have to be reflected in rising rents for everyone, including for those struggling to get by.

We need a fairer system of how we apportion the loss incurred by landlords and tenants arising out of the COVID-19 crisis.  The Palaszczuk Labor Government seems to have a pathological bent against mum and dad landlords, because they continue to make it harder and more expensive for them to operate.  This ignores the axiomatic fact that this will result in higher rents for those the Palaszczuk Labor Government seeks to protect.   

  1. Evidence of Financial Distress

Annastacia’s Palaszczuk’s proposals do not require tenants to show any evidence whatsoever that they have suffered financial distress arising from the COVID-19 crisis. The Premier is asking landlords who rely solely on rental income to survive, to waive their tenants’ rent for six months or more simply because the tenant claims they cannot pay.

Times are incredibly tough for a great many people, and we should not put more Queenslanders in unnecessary financial distress because a small minority of unscrupulous tenants don’t want to pay. We expect people to provide evidence of their circumstances to access Government help, and we should expect the same for people who need a reduction in their rent. There must be a degree of proportionality in the pain experienced by both landlords and tenants. How can a landlord enter into negotiations with a tenant in good faith, without evidence of the tenant’s loss arising from COVID-19?

  1. Compulsory Extension of Tenancy

The National Cabinet agreed to a six month moratorium on evictions because that is the length of time that our best predictions say this measure will be necessary. However, the Queensland Government’s proposed measures mandatorily require landlords to offer a six month extension of their existing rental agreement (at the lower weekly rent) if a lease expires during the moratorium on evictions, whatever the circumstances.   

This compulsory lease extension effectively doubles the length of the moratorium and leaves struggling landlords facing significant financial hardship long after this crisis has passed.

We need a fairer and more equitable solution which avoids struggling tenants being left homeless, but which does not extend these temporary crisis measures long beyond their necessary duration.

  1. Safety Inspections

The Queensland Government’s proposals also prohibit landlords making any inspections of their properties without their tenants’ permission during this crisis.

Under this dangerous plan, landlords would be unable to insist on inspections of their rental properties to check for electrical faults or broken smoke detectors, despite their legal obligation to make these checks.

Those inspections exist for a critical reason, to reduce fires, injuries and even deaths of tenants and, with the proper social distancing measures in place, they must be allowed to happen.

What can I do?

These measures could come before the Queensland Parliament to be passed into law as early as next Wednesday 22 April 2020.

Before that date, we need to show Annastacia Palaszczuk that Sunshine Coast residents want to see tenants and landlords protected with a fairer and more equitable system that ensures both make a proportionate contribution to getting us all through this crisis.

You can help me do that by emailing your local State Member of Parliament, or the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk herself on thepremier@premiers.qld.gov.au before next Wednesday to let her know that you strongly oppose these plans. And remember, please c.c. me on andrew.wallace.mp@aph.gov.au so that I can follow up with the Premier on behalf of all of us.

Thank you for your support.

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