Landlords and tenants to share in $500 million rent rescue package

Rent increases and evictions will be illegal for six months as part of a $500 million package to protect landlords and tenants in the residential and commercial sectors.

The Andrews government will provide $420 million in land tax relief to encourage landlords to “do the right thing” by tenants.

Premier Daniel Andrews flanked by Treasurer Tim Pallas and Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz, annoucing support for renters and landords. Credit:Eddie Jim

There will also be an $80 million rental assistance fund to support renters who have lost income due to the coronavirus.

The new laws on tenancies will be introduced to the State Parliament during a one-day emergency sitting next week.

The ban on evictions will apply to both residential and commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of the pandemic.

Landlords who offer rent relief to coronavirus-affected tenants will be eligible for a 25 per cent discount on their land tax while the remaining land tax can be deferred until March next year.

Land tax applies to investment and commercial properties, holiday homes and vacant land. It does not apply to principal places of residence. It is based on a sliding scale depending on the property value.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the government wanted renters experiencing hardship and landlords to engage in mediation to help them survive the pandemic.

But he said many tenants would still be left in financial stress “even with a good faith agreement” if the rent exceeded 30 per cent of their income.

The Premier said residential tenants would be eligible for rent assistance from an $80 million fund.

To be eligible the tenants will have to earn less than $100,000 and have less than $5000 in savings.

“Then we will make available to them up to $2000 in rental assistance,” Mr Andrews said. “That assistance will go directly to the landlord and obviously we’ll support that ongoing tenancy.”

Other states including NSW, Queensland and Tasmania have already released their rental policies.

Victorian Council of Social Services chief executive Emma King said the new measures would give renters “strong and necessary protections”.

“Right now the safest place for everybody is in their home,” she said. “This package will mean Victorian renters can follow the government’s stay at home message and do their part to flatten the curve.”

Treasurer Tim Pallas said he expected more than 10,000 claims to be made for assistance in the commercial sector and a similar figure in the residential sector.

But he said tenants and landlords will need to have reached an agreement to reduce rent before they can get rental relief.

“The basic theme here is that we’re all in this together,” he said.

Tenants Victoria chief executive Jennifer Beveridge said the government had recognised that renters were “doing it very tough” during the pandemic.

“The land tax relief on offer will provide a good incentive for landlords to enter into mediation with renters and the moratorium on evictions and rent increases is urgently needed.”

If you or anyone you know needs support call Lifeline on 131 114, or Beyond Blue's coronavirus mental wellbeing support service on 1800 512 348.

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