‘Minister’s condemn landlord’s ‘unreasonable’ demands in rental stoush | The Canberra Times

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ACT ministers have called for landlords to “show some compassion” to struggling tenants following reports of renters being threatened with eviction during the COVID-19 crisis. Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay condemned landlords for pursuing renters who were legitimately seeking rent relief amid the coronavirus-induced economic downturn. The Canberra Times this week reported on cases of landlords threatening to push a tenant into homelessness for not paying rent. In other cases, landlords had asked tenants whether they had cancelled their Netflix subscription after they requested help. Legal Aid’s new tenancy advice service detailed further examples on Friday, including cases of landlords threatening to evict a tenant and move back into their property if they didn’t sign a new fixed-term lease agreement. Mr Barr said the reported conduct showed a “lack of compassion, a bit of reluctance to share economic pain” on the part of landlords. “People who do nasty things now really aren’t helping our community and they aren’t helping each other,” he said. “What an awful place to be; to be so venal as to want to evict someone now, or demand that you see every last cent in their bank account. “A bit of compassion goes a long way in a time of public crisis.” READ MORE: The ACT government this week signed off on new laws protecting renters who were “impacted” by the financial crisis from eviction. The moratorium will be in place until at least July 22. The new regulations set out what types of information renters can use to prove they have lost income as a result of the downturn, such as a letter from their employer or a work roster. Mr Barr said the information allegedly requested by some landlords went far beyond was what required. Mr Ramsay said it was unacceptable for agents or landlords to be “placing unreasonable pressure on tenants”. “There is an enormous difference between asking for a claim to be demonstrated and being invasive and intrusive,” he said. “The evidence required from a tenant can be quite simple. Agents and landlords should not be seeking anything further.” Renters issued with evicted notices during the pandemic are being told to contact the Legal Aid Commission, which is now running the territory’s tenancy advice service. Lawyers for the advice service this week told an ACT Legislative Assembly inquiry that it had experienced an 11 per cent increase in calls in the past month, and was expecting to receive more than 20,000 in total this year. Lawyer Brice Hamack said it had received a number of complaints from renters who had encountered “roadblocks and hostilities” from landlords as they attempted to negotiate rent reductions. Mr Hamack said some renters had been asked to provide an “unusual amount of personal and private” to justify a rent reduction, including detailed bank statements. In some cases, tenants had been told that rent relief wouldn’t be provided even if they supplied the information. The service had also been contacted by renters who were being pressured to sign new lease agreements amid the uncertain financial climate. “Several tenants engaging with our service state that they are being heavily pressured by landlords to sign new fixed-term agreements, with some landlords even making veiled threats to move back into the property in order to evict them if they do not sign such an agreement,” he said. Our COVID-19 news articles relating to public health and safety are free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. If you’re looking to stay up to date on COVID-19, you can also sign up for our twice-daily digest here


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