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Tasmania debates emergency rental laws and other states could follow suit

26 March 2020

Emergency laws are being debated in Tasmania that would protect renters from being evicted for four months during the coronavirus crisis.

Tenancy advocates are welcoming the idea and are calling for other states to follow suit.

The laws being debated in Tasmania would give ‘no effect’ to rent arrears for an emergency 120 days with a possible 90-day extension in exceptional circumstances.

The Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein says the laws are designed so there’s an incentive to keep rent where tenants are able to do so.

The laws do not mean renters can stop paying their rent but it means they will not be kicked out of their home.

Also included would be powers for the government to stop rental increases for commercial and residential tenants, a hiatus on house inspections and non-emergency maintenance and rights for tenants and owners to break fixed-term leases if they are causing ongoing hardship.

Benedict Bartl from the Tenants’ Union of Tasmania said tenants may find things particularly hard once the virus emergency ends and landlords chase them for arrears.

“There’s lots of reasons in the act why you can evict a tenant,” he told ABC.

“They’ve been a nuisance, because the lease is coming to an end, another is because the bank is foreclosing on the property.”

“We believe that all of those reasons should be included in the bill,” he argued.

“There is no reason a tenant should be evicted during this crisis.”

Shelter Tas chief executive Pattie Chugg told the ABC they welcomed the proposed changes but they would need to be continually monitored to avoid any unintended consequences.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the national cabinet have been working on measures to address rental all week and he says he is hoping to finalise support for measures very soon.

“This is obviously a complicated issue because you’ve got a landlord, you’ve got creditors and all of those issues and you need to solve the entire chain that’s there,” he said this week.

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