Real estate agents across the country are swapping tips on how to keep their renters paying top dollar, including tricks to drive them in circles when they ask for rental relief.
In secret Facebook group seen by The New Daily, real estate agents have been sharing tips on how to turn down tenants asking for a rent decrease after suffering financial hardship because of the coronavirus.
Many voiced frustration tenants were asking for a decrease.
“Seriously over getting these text messages,” wrote one agent from Melbourne, who posted a screenshot of the text.
“Hi, I just letting you know that I lost my job and can’t pay the rent anymore. How do I go about this situation,” it read.
“Following up the government regulations at the moment this makes me eligible to not be evicted and rent to be waived.”
In response, one agent from New South Wales wrote: “Could they at least word it better.”
“This makes them sound like a spoilt brat kid and says to me ‘I’m an entitled twit, and I deserve to not pay rent and there’s nothing you can do about it because the government said so’.”
Another wrote: “Am I the only one who hasn’t had any sh***y tenants expecting to live rent free for 6 months. How lucky am I’.”
The discussions indicated agents were reluctant to enter into rent negotiation as dropping the rent is covered by some landlords insurance.
“I understand having compassion and all, but ensure you protect your rights as a landlord too, especially if you yourself are experiencing financial hardship,” wrote one agent.
Another expressed concern that if the landlord was covered, the money would not be paid until the tenant moved out.
“In the current circumstances that could take some time, also dependent on government announcements that may see evictions placed on hold,” he wrote.
Some members of the 11,000-strong group shared different templates for financial hardship forms that requested the tenant take out their superannuation to pay rent.
On Saturday, most of those posts had been deleted, or admin had made it clear no one was allowed to offer financial advice, after ASIC said they would crack down on the practice.
Some agents were upset with the announcement, with one arguing: “Saying you can access your super is hardly financial advice. That’s like saying to someone you should buy that house/car.”
“The old saying you can lead a horse to water but you cant make it drink,” wrote another.
“Don’t be silly, tenants are a protected group, can do no wrong, are entitled … they deserve free everything even if its not for COVID-19,” wrote another.
“Easier to just say, shove it up you’re a$$ and issue the 1B termination,” wrote another.
Members of the group also shared tips on dealing with tenants who were seeking a rent decrease, sharing email templates with what to say.
Many of the posts expressed frustration that the government’s decision to ban evictions for six months had not been properly planned. Leaving it to tenants and landlords to sort things out, had put the agents in a tough spot.
Leo Patterson Ross, from the Tenants Union, said the government needed to offer a framework of how this might work.
“I think agents are struggling to know how to deal with the crisis, which is another good reason for government to step in with direction,” Mr Ross said.
“For so long there have been no prospects of negotiated rent, so people don’t know how to do it.
“This is a whole new world, I think expecting the agents to do without clear direction is a hard ask.”
That thousands of agents around the country had been swapping tips on how to deal with tenants asking for a rental decrease showed the power imbalance of the industry, Mr Ross said.
“The agents are hired by the landlord, specifically to act in their interest. They’re not there to be nice to tenants,” he said.
“There is often a disconnect between the way government and industry leaders talk about how it operates, and the real experience on the ground, and how the tenant feels.
“This highlights that.”
On Friday, REIA President Adrian Kelly released a statement condemning agents asking tenants to take out their super.
“I too have seen some less than acceptable behaviour from some agents in their communications with tenants. This heavy handedness is irresponsible,” Mr Kelly said.
“Over the past three weeks I and many others in our industry have been very public about looking after the needs of both our tenants and property owners in particular those who are experiencing financial hardship.
“We have always maintained that a moratorium on evictions during these challenging times is the correct thing to be doing because now more than ever everyone needs a roof over their heads.
“Our members are receiving telephone calls every five minutes from our tenants and property owners who have lost employment and we have been waiting nearly two weeks now for the state and federal governments to agree on a framework so that we can get on with our job.”