Landlords must negotiate in good faith with tenants

Landlords must negotiate with tenants who have lost income due to coronavirus, in good faith.

That is the New South Wales government’s message after a woman says she was left homeless because of a rental mix up.

On April 15, the state government enforced a 60-day moratorium on forced evictions due to rental arrears, as the pandemic resulted in thousands of people losing jobs and hours.

At the end of the moratorium, landlords who wanted to evict COVID-affected tenants for unpaid rent had to prove that they had participated in the dispute resolution process of Fair Trading “in good faith.”

Even the landlord must show that issuing an eviction notice is “fair and rational.”

Kate Page says she was evicted from her home on northern beaches in Sydney on Tuesday after she tried and failed to negotiate a reduction in COVID rent with her landlord.

She claims she and her son are now surfing couches at the homes of relatives.

Page had worked two jobs before the pandemic and leased a house for $700 a week in the upper northern beaches, where she had lived for nine years.

She says she lost all the clients from her company when COVID struck, and her main employer put her on JobKeeper.

She says her household income has plummeted by 70 per cent, making even the modest rent difficult to afford.

Like several other COVID-affected tenants, she asked her landlord for a reduction in rent before the she could get more money.

“I used the calculation formula from the Tenants Union website to calculate the rent I could afford to pay,” Page told 7NEWS.com.au.

“You can look at your old whole household income versus your rent as a percentage, then you take your new income and work out the same percentage for rent.”

“I figured they wouldn’t accept that and I offered to pay more.”

Local Pittwater MP Rob Stokes reported the demand for rental properties on the northern beaches in Sydney had far outstripped the supply, particularly as people were looking for cheaper rental properties.

He said the case of Page showed just how necessary it was during COVID for landlords to work with tenants.

“I’m encouraging tenants and landlords to stay engaged and work together amicably during these difficult times,” Stokes said.

“Landlords and agents should be doing everything possible to keep good tenants, and tenants need to ensure they keep lines of communication open and advise of any hardships as soon as possible.

“It’s really important things aren’t left to the last minute. No one wins in these situations.”

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