By Pamela Hunter - Community Services Manager

Recently I’ve written about the challenges many vulnerable renters are facing in our community, and it’s an important topic as COVID-19 has not only impacted our health but also severely impacted our economy. For those already facing disadvantage, that impact has been exacerbated even further by the threat of homelessness.

The immediate threat was offset somewhat by the NSW Government’s decision to impose a moratorium on evictions throughout the crisis but while that provided some protection, it’s sadly proven to not be enough in many cases. That limited protection is now under threat, with the moratorium due to expire in October 2020.

There are a number of important reasons why this needs to change and an extension must be granted.

Stats show a grim picture

A report recently released by the Tenants Union of NSW paints a very tragic picture. Their report, titled Supporting Renters During the Pandemic, used data from tenancy services across the state and showed that it’s been an incredibly difficult time for NSW renters. Some of the key statistics they pointed out include:

  • A whopping 80 per cent increase in the number of renters looking for advice on rental termination;
  • 60 per cent year-on-year lift in calls for support in the April-June quarter alone, and most disturbingly;
  • A 33 per cent lift in the number of ‘no grounds’ termination of leases by landlords, most of which occurred when a renter asked for assistance in a rental reduction during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen these numbers echoed in our own data for the South West NSW region, where VERTO delivers the Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Service (TAAS) to vulnerable members of the community.

What is most disappointing is the use of the limitation around ‘no grounds’ evictions. In many cases, those most vulnerable to homelessness are those who have been more severely impacted by this crisis, meaning that they are more likely to face unemployment and have a more difficult task of returning to work than others. ‘No grounds’ evictions are a limitation that allows a landlord to avoid the moratorium, and we’ve seen it used countless times against vulnerable renters. It’s especially galling in cases where the renter has asked for financial assistance.

Tougher in regional Australia

One of the other interesting stats in the report was the marked difference between metro and regional areas. For metropolitan centres, the pandemic has seen more rentals come available and supply hasn’t been an issue. In regional areas it’s the exact opposite; a lack of supply means that if you are evicted, you often have no other place to go.

Anecdotally, our team has seen this when they face a situation where a vulnerable renter needs to find a new place to move to, but there are less than 20 available properties across some regions. This puts them in an incredibly difficult position.

We need to keep support in place

While understanding that there’s always two sides to a story, it’s important to keep the moratorium in place through to the beginning of 2021, at the very least. No one is asking for support without any limitations, but at the very least we need to keep a roof over people’s heads.

If you add in the upcoming changes to Job Keeper and Job Seeker, alongside the grim employment numbers, we really are facing a perfect storm of factors that could lead to increased homelessness, a situation that no one wants to see. We need to provide families with a level of security and protection in these very unconventional times.

Experiencing issues with your landlord and unsure where to turn? Visit our website to find out what support is available to you.