Landlords are welcoming the impending end of the rent moratorium introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are serious concerns about the impact on vulnerable renters.
A temporary six month moratorium on rent increases was introduced on March 30, 2020 by the State Government to provide rent relief for people who had lost their income due to the pandemic.
The end date was subsequently extended to March 28, 2021 to account for the financial impacts of COVID-19 which have stretched further than the initial moratorium emergency period.
The end of this period means landlords across WA can now increase rents in line with the housing market.
Property Owners Association of Western Australia treasurer Paul Pellegrini, who is also a landlord, says only his tenants who run wedding and events staging businesses have needed to ask for rent relief.
“For six months they paid no rent, and then it started to creep up to 50 per cent, 70 per cent and when the moratorium ends it will be back to what it was before lockdown,” he says.
Mikyla Sterry from Landlords’ Advisory Services says: The moratorium has caused personal stress and a lot of financial hardship for landlords.
“People have had arrears of about $10,000 by the time court orders have been issued for tenants to vacate their premises.”
But the hardships felt by landlords pale in comparison to the situation of many renters, according to West Aus Crisis and Welfare Services Inc. chief executive Lynn Rodgers. The organisation assists members of the community with a variety of issues, including people facing homelessness who require emergency accommodation.
Ms Rodgers expects an “avalanche of people” will find themselves without housing on March 28.
“We’ve already had people coming to us wanting accommodation options because they can’t find any,” she says.
“We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg now. After the moratorium is lifted, I think we will see far more homeless people in WA than we have seen previously. Homelessness will be a given fact.”
Ms Rodgers says there is a housing crisis in WA, contributing to a shortage of affordable rentals.
“Clients aren’t getting their leases renewed, either because the property owners want to move back in or they want to sell,” she says.
“We’ve got people constantly coming back from overseas and they’re also looking for a house, and people are coming from the eastern states for mining jobs.”
The Real Estate Institute of Western Australia lists the rental vacancy rate in Perth at 0.9 percent as of January 2021, compared to 2.2 percent in January 2020. REIWA considers a balanced housing market as one which has a vacancy rate between 2.5 and 3.5 per cent.
Mikyla Sterry, who also runs a rental agency, does not agree there is a housing crisis and says those finding it tough to get rentals need to broaden the areas they are considering to live in.
“We look after around 70 properties. Out of those, I only have one [vacating] tenant who is unable to find something,” she says.
“There are definite spots where there is a shortage, but it may not cover all areas, and it is not the case across the board.”