‘Housing is a right’: How 17,000 Australians plan to stop paying rent THIS MONTH – and there’s nothing landlords can do about it
- Around 17,000 Australians are planning to strike and stop paying rent this month
- A campaign is demanding rent and mortgage amnesty amid COVID-19 pandemic
- Tenants fear they will be left with no money and no house without a rent freeze
- Government announced a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic
- Scott Morrison said tenants and landlords needed to negotiate rent themselves
Around 17,000 Australians are planning to go on strike this month and stop paying rent to landlords after many were left jobless by the coronavirus pandemic.
A ‘COVID-19 Rent Strike Pledge’ campaign has circulated online, demanding a rent and mortgage amnesty from landlords and real estate agents with 17,092 people signing up so far.
Those planning to strike demand a total freeze on rent payments, and that nobody is evicted, fined or put into debt until the pandemic is over.
Landlords are essentially unable to stop the strikers after they were banned from evicting tenants under a six month moratorium imposed by Scott Morrison to help struggling Australians.
Thousands of Australians are planning to stop paying rent payments this month as they demand amnesty from the government during the coronavirus pandemic (man walks past Stop the Rent sign in Newton, Sydney)
The prime minister also suggested landlords sit down with their tenants and discuss their financial situations moving forward.
On Tuesday, Mr Morrison said a rental waiver and deferral would be introduced for commercial tenants but nothing was put in place for residential tenants.
Many Australians have since been forced to ask their landlords to reduce rent as they struggle to keep afloat during the crisis – but many have been denied.
Following this, Rent and Mortgage Strike Australia who is running the campaign issued a letter to the prime minister and state premiers with a long list of concerns.
‘We fear that vulnerable people will be forced onto the streets. We fear that people will accrue exorbitant debts and fines. We fear that workers will expose their communities to risk by showing up to unsafe workplaces solely out of fear of missing out on payments,’ the letter read.
Scott Morrison recently announced a moratorium on evictions for Australians who were suffering financially during the pandemic
‘We welcome the proposed moratorium on evictions, but it does not address the majority of our concerns. Already people in touch with our campaign report evictions proceeding for reasons other than non-payment of rent.
‘Landlords are simply selling up or finding other reasons to get people out of houses where they think people may struggle to pay rent.
‘You have instructed renters to negotiate with landlords. We find this suggestion laughable.
‘We implore you to enact a universal amnesty on all rents and mortgages, including a halt on interest and fees, to ensure that no-one is left behind in this crisis.’
Another note sent by 24 renters to landlords in the Yarra City Council in Melbourne said: ‘We believe that housing is a right. During this crisis, all landlords and agents should work hard to support people’s basic needs.’
Following the moratorium on evictions, property managers said some tenants are now refusing to pay rent despite being financially able.
Up to 100 real estate agents across NSW and Victoria are being targeted by the group but some say they are being ‘abused’ by desperate tenants.
Stafford Property Advisory director Kirk Stafford said the unclear directions from the government was causing a divide.
Tenants say they fear people they will be evicted or end up in debt after many lost their job during the closure of businesses during the pandemic
‘We’re being abused by people who are in desperate situations because we don’t have solutions to their problems and we’re frustrated that government seems paralysed by what is fast becoming a rental crisis as well,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Leo Patterson Ross, Tenants Union of NSW senior policy officer, said the government’s suggestion for landlords and tenants to negotiate it themselves wasn’t working.
‘When people feel unsupported by government, they look to some solution and really rent strikes are risky,’ he said.
‘We’d much rather see the government step in and give better guidance. We’ve seen that negotiating is not working. Landlords and agents don’t know how to do it and aren’t coming to the table.’
The campaign started by group Rent and Mortgage Strike Australia are planning to stop paying rent this month and have had more than 17,000 sign up