The Western Australian government will be expanding the application of its Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme to incentivise landlords who maintain tenancies and avoid evictions post-March 2021.
This will enable tenants who are still facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 to pay their rent debt after the eviction and rental increase moratorium does end.
The state government estimates somewhere between 3,750 and 4,000 tenancies will be preserved through the additional assistance.
As it currently stands, nearly 6,000 tenants who applied for an existing rent relief grant have been provided with financial assistance – but this only amounts to $8 million of the $30 million that was initially allocated.
A joint statement from the Western Australian Attorney-General and Commerce Minister, John Quigley, and state treasurer, Ben Wyatt, explained that the unspent funds will be “re-purposed to provide landlords with direct one-off payments equivalent to 75 per cent of the accrued rent arrears incurred during the emergency period, up to a maximum of $4,000”.
This will include any rent that was waived or deferred during the emergency period.
Mr Quigley and Mr Wyatt said a key condition of landlords receiving the funding “is that a fixed-term agreement of six months or longer is entered into with the existing tenant at a reasonable rent that is affordable”.
There are also a number of criteria that tenants must also fulfil if they wish to apply for the new grants scheme – with the new grant scheme taking applications from now until 28 June 2021.
According to Mr Wyatt, the need for the original rent assistance scheme wasn’t as large as the Western Australian government had expected it to be, meaning “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”.
“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,” he said.
Weighing in on the announcement, Mr Quigley also expressed how the expanded 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”.
He believes the new grants “will 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, helping them stay in their home until they can get back on their feet financially”.
“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,” Mr Quigley continued.