NSW renters navigate pandemic fallout

Jodie Stephens

After losing work amid the coronavirus pandemic and having to cancel their Italian wedding, Nicky Doube and her fiance were handed a small lifeline.

Ms Doube's landlord in Sydney agreed to a rent reduction after her fiance, a coffee roaster, had his hours at work significantly scaled back as cafes shut up shop.

"It's a huge relief; $100 a week off our rent is massive for Sydney," Ms Doube told AAP on Wednesday.

"We feel really, really lucky that they were that flexible and accommodating."

Friends of hers are similarly trying to negotiate rent reductions after losing their jobs this week.

Tenants' Union of NSW senior policy officer Leo Patterson Ross says renters affected by the COVID-19 crisis have nothing to lose by asking for some relief.

"We're seeing mixed results - but ultimately, what we're telling people is, even if the landlord says no ... you haven't lost anything by asking," Mr Patterson Ross told AAP on Wednesday.

"It is worth trying to negotiate and offering what you can."

The union has been busier than usual and their website traffic has more than doubled.

Mr Patterson Ross said renters were worried about being evicted during the pandemic, going into rent arrears and ending their leases after their circumstances changed.

Access and open home inspections were also a huge concern when people were meant to be socially distancing, he said.

Open home inspections have been banned and a national cabinet comprising state and federal leaders is expected to discuss the coronavirus impact on renters on Wednesday night.

Mr Patterson Ross said landlords and agents could still require access to rentals in certain circumstances.

"But I think there is a bit of a medium ground where something like a periodic inspection can probably be done by video or pictures or not at all," Mr Patterson Ross said.

"But if there is a legitimate repair request that needs to be attended to we wouldn't want to see that stopped."

The tenants' union hopes the national cabinet will on Wednesday night introduce a pause on evictions for all renters and discuss how to ensure there aren't rent debts arising from the pandemic.

Mr Patterson Ross said a temporary stop on evictions would be "as much for managing the health crisis as anything else".

"People who are evicted can't stay home, can't practice physical distancing. All those health directions just become much, much more difficult."

Legislation passed the NSW parliament on Tuesday allowing the state government to introduce the natinal cabinet's rental measures without needing to recall parliament.