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Landlords urge government support amid COVID-19

Landlords urge government support amid COVID-19

by Emma Ryan | March 27, 2020 | 1 minute read

Property owners are seeking government support in helping tenants during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Property Investors Council of Australia (PICA).

PICA chairman Ben Kingsley
PICA chairman Ben Kingsley
by Emma Ryan
March 27, 2020

In a statement to the media, PICA confirmed it has responded to tenant unions and politicians requesting rental relief and end of evictions for renters.

PICA chairman Ben Kingsley acknowledged that while property owners understand the hardships their tenants face, the government, APRA and financial institutions need “to step up and be part of the solution”.

“Let’s be clear: landlords understand the situation. The vast majority are decent, hard-working, average Australians who own just one rental property,” Mr Kingsley said.

“They want to do whatever they can to assist the community, but the fact is most can’t afford to bear the cost of having reduced or no rental income while still needing to cover mortgage repayments, tax commitments, and repairs and maintenance.

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“Put another way, landlords themselves are everyday Australians who are also feeling the hit with job losses and reduced income like everyone else.”

Mr Kingsley said any moves to assist tenants have to come with support for landlords as well.

“State governments have been asked to establish programs to assist struggling tenants. As the peak body representing landlords, we’d welcome the opportunity to be part of those discussions.”

Mr Kingsley said there are a range of ways to ease the burden on landlords so they can be part of the solution for tenants suffering hardship.

According to the chairman, these include: 

• APRA’s relaxation of lending guidelines allowing investors to refinance more easily at better loan conditions;
• bringing investors’ interest rates and financial charges to be in line with those offered to home owners;
• banks passing on rate cuts in full;
• easing restrictions so investors can move easily to interest-only loans;
• providing an interest-free loan repayment “holiday” period;
• ensuring interest-only and P&I mortgages have the same interest rate applied;
• tax depreciation breaks to help offset the burden such as allowing investors to claim the actual remaining depreciation on the remaining life of the asset.

“All we are asking is for some sensible help so we can afford to accommodate rental loses from unfortunate tenants,” Mr Kingsley added.

“Property investors have already been subject to challenges in terms of securing finance and loss of their ownership rights through changes to state-based legislation. They simply aren’t in a position to be asked, yet again, to carry the load unassisted.

“Recent accusations that landlords are unsympathetic and unwilling to fulfil our roles in providing safe housing at reasonable market rents have been both hurtful and divisive.

“Ironically, the same groups who’ve been advocating for the erosion of property owner’s rights and are now looking for our assistance.

“Perhaps, the silver lining of this current event is a greater realisation across the board that tenants and landlords must treat each other with mutual respects and help each other through tough times.”

Landlords urge government support amid COVID-19
PICA chairman Ben Kingsley
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