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Why housing evictions must be suspended to defend us against coronavirus


The COVID-19 pandemic is a double crisis affecting public health and the economy. And both aspects are playing out in our housing system – in our homes.

More and more of us are being directed to stay home, to work from home, or to socially isolate at home. Our homes are the “first line of defence against the COVID-19 outbreak”, as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Housing puts it. But, depending on how our housing system responds, it could make the double crisis worse.

More and more workers are losing shifts, or losing jobs altogether, as well as the incomes they use to pay for their homes – whether it’s the rent or the mortgage. On Friday, the prime minister announced that states would work on model rules to provide relief to tenants in “hardship conditions”. On Sunday, the federal government moved to replace some of the income households have lost, temporarily doubling some social security payments and making cash grants to businesses.

The risk of people becoming homeless during the pandemic is still high. Some more specific actions are needed to shore up our first line of defence. Governments must implement a moratorium on evictions as long as the crisis lasts. Similar changes have already been made overseas.

Read more

Build the campaign to stop evictions

Over 80 organisations and 3,500 people have already signed up to the campaign: Protect our communities – No evictions in a health crisis.

We know that government ministers are developing their response now, and this campaign is making a difference. Please sign if you haven't already, and share with your friends and colleagues online.
A decision will be made on legislation tomorrow. The Victorian government is currently developing a model for this, if you get in touch with the VIC Premier it could have a real effect. We want them to get this right. Can you send an email to VIC Premier Dan Andrews? We need to stop all evictions during the health crisis, not just for rental arrears. Cover all renters, including social housing, boarders and lodgers. And prevent an unmanageable debt crisis caused by rent arrears.
Send an email to the VIC Premier

Tenancy law changes today – 23 March 2020

In the midst of this crisis, important changes to tenancy law in NSW have also come into effect as of 23 March 2020. These changes affect anyone renting a property (including people who rent both home and site in residential land lease communities).

We have been working hard to update our factsheets so that you can be sure that is accurate and you're reading the most up-to-date information. All 28 of our key factsheets have been thoroughly reviewed, with substantial changes made to over half of them.

Some highlights from the changes

All rental properties will now have to meet seven minimum standards before they can be considered 'habitable'. The standards include that the property is structurally sound, has natural and artificial light, adequate ventilation and plumbing and drainage. See Factsheet 06: Repairs and maintenance

If you need to leave a fixed-term tenancy early, the 'break fee' penalties you will pay are generally reduced and taper-off the further through your contract you are. These break fees will only apply to tenancy agreements entered into after the changes come in. See Factsheet 16: Ending fixed-term tenancy early

Now landlords can’t unreasonably refuse consent to tenants who want to make minor alterations, repairs or renovations to the rental property. Minor alterations here are fly-screens on windows, child safety features including child gates or and fixing furniture to a wall, or hand-held shower heads or lever-style taps to help elderly or tenants with a disability. Landlords and property managers will also have to make sure that smoke alarms in the property work, or face big penalties. See Factsheet 20: Smoke alarms

Landlords will have more information they need to disclose before you enter into an agreement, especially in strata tenancies, where they must provide you with a copy of the by-laws before you enter into the agreement and also inform you if a strata renewal committee has been established. See Factsheet 13: Strata scheme tenants.

Renting and COVID-19 information

We continue to update our resource on COVID-19 and renting, with common questions we are hearing. It has been viewed over 140,000 times since we published it last week. Please keep sharing it with renters and community workers. One thing we added yesterday is a suggested letter you can use to write to your landlord to ask for rent relief.

Key questions so far...

  • Can my landlord evict me during this crisis?
  • Can my landlord continue holding inspections for sale, including open homes?
  • I have lost income, what can I do?
  • I’m having trouble with other household bills, what can I do?
  • I am supposed to be at Tribunal, should I still go? What will happen to my case?
  • I'm an international student and I'm affected by the travel ban. What can I do?
  • I’m ok but I want to help my community. How can I do that?
COVID-19 and renting resource
If you need tenancy advice, contact your local Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Service. Please note that most offices are closed, including the Tenants' Union office, but staff are working remotely to maintain services. Phone or online contact is best.

Help the TU continue our work for renters...

As always, we are working hard to fight for renters' rights – during this crisis and beyond. You can help us do this work by making a donation.
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For tenancy advice, please contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service. See

Legal information in this email is intended as a guide to the law and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice. It applies to people who live in or are affected by, the law as it applies in New South Wales, Australia.

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The Tenants’ Union recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the First Peoples of Australia. Our office is on the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. The Tenants' Union is committed to respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures, lands, and histories as we battle for tenants’ rights in NSW.