UnionsACT calls for protections for renters during coronavirus crisis

UnionsACT has today called on the ACT Government to implement urgent reforms that would protect Canberrans from rent increases and evictions during the COVID-19 crisis.

In the past week, UnionsACT has been contacted by numerous casual workers, and retired workers on fixed incomes from superannuation, concerned about evictions during the crisis.

  • Casual workers who are stood down, sacked or have their shifts reduced due to the coronavirus crisis are at risk of defaulting on rent (or mortgage payments).
  • Other workers have contacted UnionsACT concerned that they face rental increases at a time when their incomes are frozen or facing cuts.
  • Some small businesses have raised concerns with UnionsACT at high commercial rents or rental increases impacting on their ability to keep staff employed.

UnionsACT is calling for the ACT Government to implement urgent reforms to residential and commercial tenancy laws.

Reforms to residential tenancy (Residential Tenancies Act) laws should:

  • Restrict any rental increase for the duration of the coronavirus crisis;
  • Ban rental evictions for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.

Reforms to commercial tenancy (Leases – Commercial and Retail Act) laws should:

  • Restrict commercial rental increases for direction of coronavirus crisis;
  • Temporarily void clauses of leases that would render a business unviable (i.e. outgoings, levies);
  • Include requirement to consider health and financial welfare of employees in clauses regarding core trading hours.

Reducing the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on workers and the community must be the absolute priority for the ACT Government. The ACT Government must ensure that workers are not left homeless or financially ruined due to rental costs or evictions.

The following quotes are attributable to Alex White, Secretary of UnionsACT:

“Working people should not pay the costs of the Federal Government’s calls to voluntarily self-isolate, or face personal economic ruin or homelessness if they are stood down without pay.

“Sensible reforms to rental laws – residential and commercial – will reduce the impact of the crisis on workers and support public health measures.

“UnionsACT notes that the ACT Government has already supported the union movement’s call for the Federal Government to establish two weeks special paid sick-leave for all workers impacted by coronavirus. This support is gratefully received.”

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