Landlords welcome NSW eviction rule shift

·3-min read

A moratorium on residential evictions in NSW due to COVID-19 has entered a six-month "transition phase", with the national association of landlords declaring "it's about time".

The NSW government in April 2020 established a six-month ban on forced evictions due to rental arrears caused by the pandemic fallout, which was extended by six months in September.

The measure also established requirements for landlords and tenants to negotiate rental payments "in good faith".

From Saturday, a "transition phase" will begin in which landlords will only be able to evict tenants if they have attempted to negotiate a fair repayment plan.

Both parties will also receive assistance with the negotiation process.

Landlords retained the ability throughout the pandemic to terminate tenancies where tenants had caused serious damage to property, injured the landlord or agent or used premises for illegal purposes.

However Australian Landlords Association President Andrew Kent says the transition phase processes remain weighted in favour of the tenant.

He says many NSW landlords have gone without a rent for a long time while the interest accruing on their home loans continue to rise, despite repayment deferrals offered by banks at the pandemic's outset.

He said landlords had provided a "free service" throughout 2020.

"The overwhelming thing is, it's about time," Mr Kent told AAP.

"It's still definitely in favour of the tenant ... there's not been due consideration for the fact landlords are dependent on this income.

"About half of landlords are providing rental properties at less than cost."

However Tenants' Union of NSW chief executive Leo Patterson Ross said the transition provisions did not fully protect tenants and no-grounds evictions should be outlawed entirely and replaced by an expanded list of reasonable grounds to evict.

He said while landlords and tenants had discussions about rent waivers and deferrals at the outset of the pandemic, these arrangements were rarely formalised and misunderstandings had often arisen.

For example, tenants may have believed they received a rent waiver, while landlords believed the agreement was a deferral and rent would be repaid.

This occurred in relation to approximately 27,000 NSW households.

"A lot of negotiations that happened in NSW were outside the formal fair trading process ... we know there's a lot of agreements that may not have been documented, there may be different understandings," Mr Patterson Ross said.

"One person says, 'we agreed on a rent waiver', and the landlord says 'no no no, we only ever meant deferral, you owe us all that money'.

"Unfortunately we know from academic research that's been done that a lot of people didn't get what they needed and what they were after."

Mr Patterson Ross said the capital growth enjoyed by landlords on properties amid the pandemic justified stronger eviction regulations as "(landlord) wealth is not being as badly affected".

His remarks follow NSW Labor's introduction this week of legislation banning landlords evicting tenants without an "appropriate" reason.

The government immediately rejected the proposal.

Federal Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi said renters were facing "uncertainty, mounting debt and homelessness", and evictions bans should be extended until the government enacts rental debt relief.

NSW authorities on Saturday implemented restrictions on travellers arriving from Brisbane, after a man tested positive to COVID-19 and has been in the community since March 20.

All new arrivals and those who have come from Brisbane in the past fortnight, will have to declare whether they have attended a list of venues visited by the man. If they have, and are already in NSW, they must self-isolate.