NSW rent support a ‘cruel hoax’: Labor

The NSW government’s $440 million rent relief package has been slammed by the Labor opposition, who say it does little to help renters and landlords amid the coronavirus pandemic.

NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay says she is disappointed with the package’s focus on easing land tax obligations rather than direct tenancy assistance.

She says only 16 per cent of NSW landlords pay land tax as they hit the $734,000 threshold for the total value of their taxable land, which generally does not include their principal place of residence or farm.

“We are disappointed that this is the very best that the government has come up with because it leaves out tens of thousands of people living in properties here in Sydney and in rural and regional NSW,” Ms McKay said.

The government’s support package will include a six-month moratorium on forced residential evictions over rent arrears, as well as a two-month stop to all evictions.

Residential landlords and tenants will be required to negotiate rental payments in circumstances where a household has lost at least 25 per cent of its income because of the coronavirus.

Eligible tenants will be protected from eviction until the National Civil and Administrative Tribunal is satisfied negotiations have concluded, with any unpaid rent to accrue as arrears in that time.

NSW shadow Treasurer Walt Secord said Labor would attempt to change the package when parliament is recalled, with the government promising to introduce legislation as soon as possible.

“This package is a cruel hoax. It’s modest and it claims to be much more than it actually is,” Mr Secord said.

Under the relief measures, commercial landlords will also be offered a concession of up to 25 per cent of their 2020 land tax liability if they pass the savings on through a rent reduction.

Those who claim the concession will also be offered further land tax deferral for any outstanding amounts for a three-month period.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said on Monday the government’s focus is on fostering successful negotiations between landlords and tenants in both commercial and residential property arrangements. 

The land tax relief is expected to inject $220 million into each sector.

“What we’re trying to do is to ease the pressure as much as possible. This is not a one size fits all approach,” Mr Perrottet said.

“This policy is about protection – protecting tenants from being evicted due to circumstances outside their control, (protecting) landlords from tenants in circumstances where payment of rent is not being paid when it should be paid.”

He said it was important both landlords and tenants understood the changes only applied to businesses significantly impacted by COVID-19.

“If your circumstances have not significantly changed, you need to fulfil the terms of your existing agreement,” he said.

Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson said the package also includes $2.3 million towards the Tenants’ Union of NSW for increased support services.

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