Real estate agents would be banned from "blacklisting" Canberrans who cannot pay their rent as a result of the coronavirus downturn, under proposed new ACT government rules.
The ACT government has published a series of fact sheets outlining measures that will frame the rights and obligations of tenants, landlords and real estate agents in situations where renters cannot afford their rent.
It has yet to finalise and implement all the regulations, but is publishing the information to signal what changes are on the horizon.
Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said the ACT - like other states and territories - was committed to ensuring renters hit hard by the economic downturn weren't "unfairly kicked out of their property".
However, Mr Ramsay warned the pandemic wasn't a "licence" for tenants who could afford to keep paying rent to forgo their obligations.
The ACT government will impose a six-month moratorium on the evictions of renters who cannot pay their rent as a result of the downturn. The same renter protections will be introduced nationwide after an agreement was struck by Prime Minister Scott Morrison's national cabinet.
To further cushion the blow to struggling tenants, the ACT government will move to prevent real estate agents from placing renters who are unable to make payments on so-called "blacklists".
The lists are private online databases, which agents and landlords use to search the rental history of a prospective tenant.
The tenants also have the option to negotiate with their landlords to have rental payments delayed until their income returns. The unpaid rent would become a debt to the landlord, however the landlord would not be able to charge interest on it, according to the government.
The second stage of the government's economic survival plan, announced earlier this month, included a scheme designed to ease the financial burden on renters who lose income during the downturn.
The government will offer land tax rebates to landlords who reduce rent for tenants by at least 25 per cent for the next six months, starting from April 1.
To be able to access the maximum rebate amount of $100 a week, landlords would need to reduce their tenant's rent by $200 a week.
The Real Institute of the ACT sparked a row with Chief Minister Andrew Barr earlier this month after raising concerns that the scheme placed too much of a burden on landlords. Labeling the comments "out of touch", Mr Barr threatened to "drag them [landlords] to the table" if they didn't play their part in supporting the community through the downturn.
The institute struck back, saying the government had provided no guidance to renters, landlords and property managers on how to deal with the situation.
Under rules set out in the new fact sheets, tenants seeking rent relief would need to provide their landlord or real estate agent with evidence to show they had lost income as a result of the coronavirus-induced downturn. This might include a letter signed by their employer or a statutory declaration.
To receive the rebate, the landlord must reduce rent, not simply "freeze" it, according to the government.
Landlords would be subject to "significant" penalties if they didn't pass on the rent relief, or provided false information.
"All parties need to come to the table if their living situation has been disrupted due to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic," Mr Ramsay said.
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