Finance Property Landlords punishing tenants who deferred rent during COVID: agent

Landlords punishing tenants who deferred rent during COVID: agent

Many rental agents are no longer putting signs outside properties because homes are renting within hours. Photo: ABC Gold Coast/Tom Forbes
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Gold Coast landlords are retaliating against tenants by not renewing leases for people who stopped paying or reduced the amount of their rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a real estate property manager.

Oxenford Ray White real estate co-principal Sally Hynes said many tenants are now paying the price as a city-wide rental shortage worsens.

“There are some people that did wrong by owners in COVID,” she said.

“Now the owners have taken that onus back and are not renewed the lease because they did not do the correct thing during COVID according to the rules and regulations of the Residential Tenancy Authority.”

Ms Hynes said tenants could apply for a rental deferral if they could prove they were under financial pressure, and their landlord was in agreement.

The rental vacancy rate on the Gold Coast has reached a 15-year low. Photo: ABC Gold Coast/Cathy Border

But many tenants simply used the pandemic as an opportunity to stop paying the required rent.

The CEO of Tenants Queensland, Penny Carr, said some tenants renegotiated their rents with landlords while others did not, fearing retaliatory action.

“Some of those tenants had absolutely no choice but to pay a reduced rent and many of them are still battling accrued debts,” she said.

“Simply because they’ve followed the procedures that were available to them, those things that were set in place to protect people that were affected by COVID, they’re now having retaliatory action.”

Ms Carr said many tenants are facing large rent increases or being overlooked by landlords due to the competition in the rental market.

According to the latest Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) current vacancy report, 70.2 per cent of the state’s rental vacancies remain under 1.0 per cent.

On the Gold Coast, Oxenford’s vacancy rate is the lowest at 0.1 per cent.

Ms Hynes said they have one property on their books for rent and it was in the neighbouring suburb of Parkwood.

“We have had, so far, 40 enquiries,” she said.

“The rental market in Oxenford at the moment is extremely, extremely busy.

“Not many properties are available and when they do become available they are gone within hours.”

Sally Hynes, right, says some tenants did the wrong thing by landlords during COVID. Photo: ABC Gold Coast/Cathy Border

Ms Hynes said the rental market had been busy for the past two months.

“It’s crazy, it’s just gone crazy,” she said.

“We don’t bother putting signs up anymore, it’s just not worth it.”

The property manager attributes the rental shortage to interstate migration, and Oxenford, like other suburbs in the northern Gold Coast corridor, is highly sought after because many homes are on larger blocks.

“I feel sorry for them [potential tenants] because I know what they’re going to be up against,” she said.

“I do say to them ‘have all of your paperwork ready’.”

Homes and units are in high demand by renters across the Gold Coast. Photo: ABC Gold Coast/Tom Forbes

Solid tenants impacted

Many tenants with sound rental histories are also becoming victims as property owners capitalise on the real estate boom.

“I have four very, very good tenants at the moment that the owners are selling their properties because of the market,” Ms Hynes said.

“I am trying to relocate them and I want to keep them, and I have no hope.

“People are getting very upset. We have people on the phone in tears.”

Ms Hynes said it was not unusual for a potential tenant offer up to $100 per week above the rental price to secure a property.

“My attitude is it’s a rental, not a raffle,” she said.

“It’s all very well to have the correct value for your property, as long as the owner is happy with that price then it is really about tenant selection.

“It’s not just all about the money.”

Fuelling homelessness

Homelessness group Everybody’s Home said the rental affordability crisis in Queensland is fuelling youth homelessness, and it is calling for more investment in social housing.

The campaign organisation wants the federal government to take action to make housing easier for young Australians to access.

Everybody’s Home said Gold Coast was leading the state with rents rising 20.6 per cent over the past 12 months.

Rents on the Sunshine Coast rose 15.3 per cent, while North Queensland’s increased 14.8 per cent in the same 12 months.

Brisbane’s rents increased 5.8 per cent in the same period.

ABC