There are many landlords, holiday accommodation owners and people with a spare room who have put their hands up to help people who have lost their homes in the recent flood. Unfortunately, there are also those who will take advantage of the increased demand for housing to push tenants out, jack up rents and generally take advantage of the disastrous flooding that has taken place.
Today, Jenny Leong, the Greens NSW Housing spokesperson, will introduce a Private Members Bill that will seek ‘to protect renters who have been impacted by the catastrophic floods throughout NSW’.
‘This emergency should not be an opportunity for landlords to evict tenants or profiteer by jacking up rents – simply because so many homes have been destroyed the demand for rental properties has skyrocketed,’ said Ms Leong.
Local Greens MP for Ballina Tamara Smith said ‘The extent of damage in regional towns and villages is such that there will be a deficit of available rental properties for the foreseeable future. We need to ensure that every possible rental property is available for medium to long term rentals for at least the next 12 months.’
The Greens state in a press release that ‘The Bill will include specific flood response measures, including putting a moratorium on evictions and capping rents to prevent landlords profiteering from the extreme housing shortage caused by the floods. The Bill also responds to the broader rental crisis in NSW – to improve the habitability, affordability and security of tenure’.
Byron councillor calls for a moratorium
The call for a moratorium on evictions was also made by local Byron Shire Councillor Mark Swivel yesterday (23 March) who also called for ‘a moratorium on evictions arising from the flood’.
‘We should have a moratorium on evictions to minimise social disruption and distress to tenants,’ he told The Echo.
‘Flooding does not automatically end a tenancy. Tenants should be able to leave a property temporarily and know they can return once repairs are made, with the lease intact.
‘A right to terminate a lease for example due to flooding does not mean the lease needs to be terminated. A landlord keeps their obligation to repair a property and keep it habitable. Just as a tenant must keep a property in good order. Of course people should not be staying in unhealthy or unsafe properties but the end goal has to be to keep people in their homes. The uncertainty and displacement caused by eviction can and should be avoided in the aftermath of a natural disaster.’
‘The chronic shortage of rental properties could cause a huge increase in the cost of rent as people scramble to find somewhere to live – which is why we have introduced this Bill to limit landlords from profiteering from this catastrophic situation,’ said Ms Leong.
‘Renters will need just as much support as property owners and small and large businesses to get back on their feet after these catastrophic floods – it’s clear that the market has failed when it comes to housing and that’s why we need to legislate to protect renters rights.
‘With so many homes destroyed, damaged and mould infested, it’s important that investors do not seek to make a profit off uninhabitable housing.’
Ms Smith is calling on the government to support The Bill saying ‘The scale and scope of devastation can’t be captured in single media images and the crisis our region is facing can’t be dealt with by single piecemeal fixes here and there.
‘We know that the demand for rental properties was exceeding availability well before the storms hit – now the situation is even more dire. I urge the government to support our plan for rent relief.’