Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent announcement that all tenants would be offered a six-month moratorium on evictions has been welcomed by Harcourts.
Harcourts has welcomed the decision which aims to protect both commercial and residential tenants that are suffering financially due to stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harcourts Australia CEO Marcus Williams believes landlords and tenants need to sit together and work out a solution, while also highlighting the government should offer rent assistance to help those in financial duress due to COVID-19.
“We are bound by a duty of care to look after both parties — our landlords and our tenants — and the federal government already has a system in place, and it works well,” Mr Williams said.
“No one is evicting any tenants, but there’s massive job losses across Australia and the government has a solution already in place; it just needs to be fast-tracked as many other Centrelink payments are.”
Harcourts firmly believes rent relief should only be administered through Centrepay, which is the federal government’s billing service.
“We definitely do not want any relief to be paid directly to tenants as a cash payment or even directly to the landlord, as we’ll never know for certain what assistance has been provided. The infrastructure is already in place to protect the interests of both parties and it works well,” Mr Williams said.
Meanwhile, Sadhana Smiles, Harcourts Property Management CEO, believes it is important the money is paid directly to managing agents as both tenants and landlords have vested interest in rental relief.
“It is our view that if rent relief is paid by a government to a landlord directly, then [neither] the managing agent nor the tenant will potentially have visibility over this,” she said.
“This could leave tenants in a vulnerable position, as landlords may receive benefits but not disclose this to management agents and tenants.
“Likewise, if rent relief were to be paid to tenants, then the payment of rent becomes the responsibility of the tenant. The same dilemma applies.”
Currently, in Australia, tenants have the ability, depending on their circumstances, to apply for rent assistance.
“To facilitate approved assistance payments, there is a government-owned payment platform called Centrepay. The benefit of rent assistance, owed to the tenant, is paid through Centrepay directly to the managing agent,” Mr Williams concluded.