Host: Annelise Nielsen, Guest: Adam Bandt
ADAM: Renters are being left behind. There's a rental crisis happening, there is an eviction crisis. The National Cabinet has had many meetings now they've announced there'll be a six-month eviction ban but in most states there's absolutely nothing in law. In the states where there is something in law – NSW and Tas it's because the Greens put it there.
As a result of this confusion and this inaction we're getting reports of landlords trying to evict tenants before any eviction ban comes in. There's talk in my home state of Victoria of people going on rent strike, we are hearing many, many reports of people being threatened by landlords or estate agents, being told they won't accept any reduction in rent even though people have lost their jobs. We can't afford to have people homeless or being threatened with eviction. Now this Easter is potentially going to be a time of great stress for many people who are wondering whether they're going to have a roof over their head.
The National Cabinet needs to stop putting this to the bottom of the agenda, urgently meet, and make sure that by the end of next week we have laws passed to ensure a national eviction ban, and rent holidays for those who need it.
ANNELISE: on Tuesday the National Cabinet passed through the Code of Conduct for Tenants and Landlords that is legally enforceable.
ADAM: Well, the government is doing a lot for commercial tenants and spruiks how much it's doing with respect to business and of course it's important to support business and especially small business during this time in their battles with their commercial landlords but they haven't done anything, apart from put out a press release, they haven't done anything for renters.
It's that confusion that is leading to people being pressured, people being threatened with eviction This is happening right now because their job loss has happened immediately, the new payments under JobKeeper and the like, for many people won't kick in. There's also going to be a big overlap between the 1.1 million casuals who aren't picked up by the JobKeeper package and those who rent. Plus there's a big overlap between those who rent and those who work in the arts, entertainment, tourism and hospitality sectors that have been hard hit.
This is a crisis. The government knows it's a crisis but it is failing to act.
ANNELISE: There has also been a six-month moratorium on evictions for residential tenants, the banks have come out and said they're not going to be charging any interest or collecting even on mortgages for the next 6 months, for people who are in distress. The urge from the government has been to sit down and talk to your landlords. So what further protection do you want beyond that point?
ADAM: Some landlords are being good and offering people protection, but others aren't. I've been hearing reports from people who said that landlords and the estate agents are basically saying to them: "Look I've got someone else who can pay me full rent and can do it quickly, you're falling behind, you're not able to do it" – and people are being threatened with eviction.
So there needs to be legally binding guarantees. Firstly that no one will be evicted for six months. That can't just be a press release put out by the Prime Minister it has to be in law and they have to do that quickly We're calling on them to do it next week.
There have to be arrangements in place that if the banks are offering landlords mortgage holidays (which is great!) then that has to be passed on to the tenants in the form of rent holidays. But the government needs to – and this is Liberal and Labor, this is state and federal, this is the National Cabinet's responsibility, they need to act for residential tenants with the same speed that they seem to be acting for for commercial tenants.
Too many people are being left behind, and yes I'm very, very pleased that the government listened to the Greens and passed wages and jobs guarantees. But people don't just need money in their pockets they need a roof over their head. That needs to be enshrined in law. No one should be evicted during a pandemic, but at the moment it is happening.
ANNELISE: Greens leader Adam Bandt, thank you for your time.