ACT Greens Housing Spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur will today bring forward amendments that, if supported, will secure more protections for COVID-impacted Canberra renters, in step with available protections in NSW.
Ms Le Couteur will tomorrow call on the other parties to help ensure that, once the COVID ban on eviction ends in October, landlords can only evict COVID-impacted rental households who are in arrears if they first participate in good faith formal rent negotiations with their tenant. This negotiation would then need to be mediated by an independent third-party, such as the Conflict Resolution Service, who have already been funded by the ACT Government to provide mediation services for tenants and landlords.
This amendment would bring the ACT in step with NSW, where landlords are required by COVID-related regulations to participate in this kind of negotiation with tenants prior to commencing eviction proceedings.
While the Greens have long held that renters should have rights such as ending no-cause evictions, the COVID economic impacts have increased the need to introduce this protection. This amendment is also consistent with a recent recommendation made by ACT Legal Aid in a letter to the COVID Committee who are also concerned about the impacts on renters.
In responding to the recent Assembly Select Committee tasked with scrutinising the ACT Government’s response to the COVID pandemic, the ACT Government “noted” a recommendation to prevent landlords from simply evicting landlords who can’t make rent, due to COVID-related debts or job losses. The Government would “continue to monitor the situation”, but stopped short of committing to providing renters and tenants with a commitment to a supportive rental negotiation and mediation service prior to eviction.
At this stage, it is unclear whether either of the other parties will support these important protections for COVID-impacted Canberrans.
Comments attributable to ACT Greens Housing spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur MLA:
“Many Canberra renters – particularly those on low incomes, or in insecure or casual work, have been hugely impacted by COVID 19. Many are struggling to get by, pay rent, and make ends meet.
“The Greens call on the other parties today to make clear their commitment to protecting those most vulnerable in our community out of this crisis.
“By ensuring that landlords must talk to their tenants and find a way through these issues in a mediated way, we’re working to protect those in our community who have been badly impacted by this unprecedented pandemic.”