Landlords will be prevented from evicting commercial and residential tenants under new laws designed to help coronavirus-hit businesses and residential renters survive the crisis.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said at a press conference this afternoon that the complex package the National Cabinet had been working on for most of the week would be announced next week after Treasurers finalise the measures over the weekend and the National Cabinet meets.
He envisaged that an omnibus bill covering a range of measures would be introduced into the Legislative Assembly during its sole sitting day next Thursday.
The package will in effect put the normal operation of the rents payment system for affected tenants on ice until the COVID-19 crisis has passed and the economy can return to normal.
“Everybody is going to wear the pain here: governments, landlords, tenants and the banks. There is no way of fixing this, which is a very complex set of private contractual arrangements, without every sector wearing some pain,” he said.
Mr Barr said the approach, as outlined by the Prime Minister, was trying to put business in hibernation so that it didn’t emerge after the coronavirus period with significant debts that would make it impossible for them to start up again.
“Those principles will be applied similarly for housholds,” he said.
Already some of the bigger commercial tenants have decided to go on a rent strike with their shops and chains shut down, but Mr Barr said the next phase of economic support would reassure smaller retailers and residential tenants that they will not lose their businesses and homes.
While the details are still being worked out, Mr Barr said the broad principle was that the waiving of government taxes and charges for landlords should flow through to tenants as rent relief.
Mr Barr said the package would aim to emulate Tasmania’s approach to preventing evictions, and that would be the direction of the legislation to go before the Assembly.
”We don’t want to see anyone evicted but we recognise that in the case of residential landlords they are predominately your mum and dad investors, not big institutional investors in the way that commercial landlords tend to be,” he said.
The Commonwealth would play a role through the company and income tax systems, while the banks had already come on board to provide mortgage relief.
“We are very conscious of the need to provide certainty and consistency to the community, the business sector, to those who rent houses or commercial properties, to landlords, and this is a national effort that will be applied consistently across the nation wherever possible,” he said.
For ACT commercial property owners whose tenants have had to close their doors and are chafing at their forthcoming rates bills despite the recently announced rebate in the stimulus package, Mr Barr offered some hope.
“The other thing we can do is just not send out bills, that’s another thing we can consider in the context of what we’re doing next week,” he said.
Mr Barr said NSW and WA were leading the work to produce a model approach that could be adopted by each state and territory, and introduced in a nationally consistent way.
“By taking an extra day or two working with the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions we can get this package right the first time and not have to keep on coming back and making adjustments,” he said.