24 March 2020

Renters urged to speak up if they're struggling to make rent

| Karyn Starmer
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ACT apartments

Canberra property managers are urging tenants to make contact with their agents. Photo: Supplied.

As the economic impact of COVID-19 reverberates around the country, many Canberrans are now out of work and finding themselves unable to pay their rent. The situation is so severe, property leaders are calling on the federal government for urgent assistance.

Independent Managing Director, Property Management, Hannah Gill said their office has been inundated with calls from tenants who have lost their jobs.

“This is a very sad and stressful situation for so many people,” Ms Gill said. “People have lost their jobs and are scared of losing their home.”

Amidst the worry, Ms Gill reports there is some kindness emerging with many landlords offering to help their tenants.

“Landlords have been in contact with us this week, reaching out to offer assistance to their tenants. It is lovely to see such kindness. In this unprecedented situation, it is important for all of us to be kind and remember we are all people. We understand that not everyone is in a position to help but it is nice to see this happening where people can.”

Canberra property managers are urging tenants to make contact with their agents so they can help find a way through the economic hardship many people are facing and provide information on available resources.

“The best advice we can give is to contact your property manager early. We want to help and the sooner we know the better. If we don’t know, we can’t let the landlord know and therefore we will follow the standard arrears processes.”

Ms Gill points out that rental arrears are a systemic problem.

“If tenants can’t pay their rent, most landlords then can’t pay their bills and mortgage and property managers won’t receive income to pay their staff. It affects everyone. We need to keep everyone going where we can,” Ms Gill said.

Ms Gill is a current board member of the Real Estate Institute of the ACT (REIACT) and says together with the other institutes, they have been pushing the Federal Government to deliver strategies to help tenants in hardship. The REIACT is hoping the government will recognise the economic relationship between all parties and that measures will be announced soon.

Ms Gill says the challenge at present is to educate everyone on what assistance is available for both tenants and landlords.

“This is new. Many people have never had to seek assistance. We hope some government assistance will be announced in the coming days. In the meantime we are encouraging tenants to seek assistance from local resources as soon as possible.”

Tenants can seek assistance from local resources such as Anglicare, Commonwealth Rent Assistance and Vinnies.

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