Financial support, eviction protections urged for renters amid Sydney lockdown


Swift support and protections will be needed to help tenants through Sydney’s second lockdown. Photo: iStock
 
Sydney tenants are at risk of falling behind on their rent amid the city’s latest lockdown, with renters’ groups particularly concerned for how income losses will affect those already trying to pay off deferred rent from last year.
 

Swift financial support and protections will be needed to help tenants through Sydney’s second citywide lockdown, with renters now more vulnerable than they were last year – many casual workers already burning through savings to get through 2020.

 
Thousands of renters have already sought advice on the Tenants’ Union of New South Wales website, since Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong went into lockdown on Saturday, said chief executive officer Leo Patterson Ross, with renters more likely to be in casual employment in hard-hit industries such as hospitality and tourism.
 

While initial queries have revolved around inspections and access to properties during the lockdown, calls for help from those facing financial difficulties are expected to follow in the weeks to come — particularly if the lockdown is extended beyond two weeks.

 

“Hundreds of thousands of renters had less than $500 in savings [before the pandemic], they couldn’t come up with money in an emergency and that hasn’t changed, if anything it’s gotten worse,” Mr Patterson Ross said, adding some tenants now had deferred rental debts to pay off on top of their weekly rent.

 

The federal government’s disaster payment — of up to $500 for those who have lost more than 20 hours of work a week — which kicks in later this week, would not be enough for many to cover rent and living expenses, Mr Patterson Ross said.

 

“You can’t claim it for a week, so that’s already a lot of lost income. We do need to be talking about what impact this is going to have on people’s wages and income and their ability to pay rent,” he said. “We want to see people protected from evictions, but also that financial support … payments ensuring either rent is covered or reduced, and [support for] landlords to reduce [mortgage payments if needed].”