Western Australia’s COVID-19 residential laws have been extended for another six months, barring rent increases and some eviction provisions until March 2021.

The McGowan Government’s moratorium was due to end this month but has been extended to “preserve stability and certainty in the rental market”.

WA Attorney-General and Minister for Commerce John Quigley said landlords maintain the right to terminate a lease if the tenant was not facing COVID-19 financial hardship.

“I want to stress, tenants who are not in COVID financial hardship must still pay their rent, otherwise they face the prospect of eviction,” Minister Quigley said.

Renters in WA can still have their leases terminated and be evicted if they are:

  • Causing serious damage to the property
  • Posing a threat to the landlord or neighbours
  • Not paying rent when they are not in financial hardship due to COVID-19
  • Refusing to make a rent payment
  • If they abandon the property.

The laws are said to support those in private and public housing, residential long-stay parks, as well as boarders and lodgers staying in their rental homes.

More support is being offered to landlords who will be able to receive guidance on what to do if a tenant fails to pay rent or breaches a lease through the new Consumer Protection Landlord Hotline.

Earlier in the week, South Australia and Victoria extended their eviction moratoriums until March 2021.

 

More action needed

While tenancy advocates welcome the extended on the eviction moratorium, they believe more action needs to be taken to address the systemic issue of homelessness in WA.

Megan Krakouer, Director of the National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Project, said the eviction moratorium will help Indigenous families in public housing.

“Western Australia evicts twice the rate and twice the total number of tenants from public housing that Victoria does,” Krakouer said.

“The extension protects the vulnerable and gets social services to actually support the doing-it-tough families in public housing.”

However, Krakouer said more should be done beyond the provisions in the residential laws.

“There are more than 9,000 homeless Western Australians, with one-third First Nations, but in Perth the quotient is even higher. With street-present homelessness in Perth, more than 40 per cent are my First Nations people,” Kakouer said.

“We need immediate emergency accommodation for all the homeless and for as long until they’re permanently housed, as well as the unmet need of 15,000 public homes to be built to end the waiting lists.”

In WA there are more than 14,000 applications for public housing.

Iain Shields from the Home Hub said since the pandemic, they have had a “huge increase” in the amount of people seeking safe and affordable housing.

“We’ve seen in particular huge increases in people who are fleeing from domestic violence and have also seen increases and a high demand in people experiencing mental illness and recovery,” said Shields.

He also stressed the need for more public housing.

“The real facts are that there’s no better opportunity for the State Government to build 15,000 new homes that ends homelessness.”

Legal advocate for First Nations people, Betsy Buchanan, said she hopes the government addresses “problematic” housing policies after the eviction moratorium lifts next year.

“The basic structural problem in WA is the housing policies. The hundreds of evictions that happen every year, with no consideration for the fact that households actually contain vulnerable children as well as vulnerable adults,” said Buchanan.

“Those houses are often extremely overcrowded. So, what happens is you’re not just evicting one family, you’re evicting a number of families and also the fact that houses often are refuges for people who might come out of prison.”

By Grace Crivellaro