24 MAY 2020

An increasing number of renters are at risk of accruing high levels of debt to landlords if the ACT Government fails to implement a repayment framework for rental arrears, according to a parliamentary committee inquiring into the ACT Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pause on evictions is in place until 27 July and there is no framework or government-provided structure for how accrued rental debts should be repaid. The ACT Owners Corporation Network (OCN), set up to help unit owners and corporations avoid problems, said the burden of rates and land tax was difficult for owners before COVID-19. Now the situation is bleak.

OCN ACT president Gary Petherbridge said the ACT Government’s piecemeal offering to reduce land tax had seen little uptake and a delay in the repayment of rates that were already unaffordable was not a good way of sharing the burden. He said the ACT Government should allow the early release of bonds held by the ACT Office of Rental Bonds to be applied proportionally as a partial rent reduction.

The bond would then be topped up when the tenant is in a position to do so. “This will have the effect of the landlord not losing out and the tenant not racking up significant arrears,” Mr Petherbridge said.

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Michael Weaver