Evictions Frozen for 6 Months in Queensland

By Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia. Contact him on caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au
April 9, 2020Updated: April 9, 2020

For the next six months Queensland residents cannot be evicted from a rental property due to economic hardship imposed by COVID-19. To qualify for this protection, renters will need to demonstrate that they have lost all or part of their income and are unable to pay all or some of their rent as a result of the CCP virus pandemic.

In a joint statement on April 9, Deputy Minister Jackie Trad and Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni unveiled the Queensland government’s package of measures.

“We will not allow anyone to be evicted because they can’t pay their rent as a result of this crisis,” said Trad.

The Queensland government wants to ensure all parties—renters, landlords, agents—do the right thing, said de Brenni. “No one could have expected or predicted the scenario that tenants, property agents, and landlords find themselves in today,” he said at the press conference.

To help this process, the Queensland government announced a $400 million incentive for landlords to support residential tenants who are financially impacted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus pandemic—commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

Speaking at the press conference, de Brenni said that when residential tenants and landlords can’t come to an agreement they will be compelled to participate in conciliation. The principles of that process will be set out by the minister for housing and public works.

The new measures also include prohibitions. Renters cannot be made to sell assets, draw down on their superannuation, and are not required to provide personal financial data to landlords or agents. However, they may be required to provide personal financial data to the Residential Tenancy Authority.

De Brenni said he will also set out principles for working out a new payable rent that is fair and reasonable and in proportion to what the tenant can afford. Rent arrears or debt cannot be amassed during this time either.

The ban on evictions related to COVID-19 does not extend to cases where a tenant causes damage to property. In such cases, property owners can still legally seek to evict.

“Tenants will still be required to demonstrate respect for their property and neighbours by maintaining their home in accordance with their tenancy agreement,” said de Brenni in a press release.

Other states and territories are introducing their versions of these measures as well. Adrian Kelley, president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia told The Epoch Times, “The real estate industry is very supportive of these measures as all Australians need a roof over their heads during these challenging times.”

National Cabinet

The new measures are a response to the National Cabinet’s decision to implement a six-month freeze on evictions. The National Cabinet meets regularly to discuss ways to protect the national public health and economy of Australia.

The National Cabinet only introduced measures to assist the commercial rental market; residential tenancy matters come under the jurisdiction of states and territories.

At a press conference on April 7, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “The issues that we’ve worked on as a National Cabinet have been to deal with the commercial issues, because they have that broader national economic impact.”

Hibernation Strategy

The National Cabinet said it is taking a “hibernation strategy” to preserve as much of the structures of the Australian economy as possible as the country goes through and comes out the other side of the CCP virus pandemic.

“That means keeping the jobs, it means keeping the businesses, it means keeping the tenancies in place; it means keeping the loans in place, keeping the credit lines open, to ensure that the liabilities that are established, or protecting against insolvencies and bankruptcies, so on the other side of these crises the economy will be able to rebuild and rebound again.”

To that end, on April 7, National Cabinet met to discuss further efforts to slow the spread of the CCP virus in Australia. Among the outcomes is a set of codes of conduct (pdf) for commercial leasing. The purpose of the code is to share the burden between commercial renters and landlords in a fair manner proportionate to the level of commercial impact as a result of the CCP virus pandemic.

Landlords who do not engage with their tenants under this process would forfeit their rights under the lease.