Reinstate the Victorian emergency COVID renting laws
HAAG sent this letter to Victorian Ministers for Consumer Affairs, Housing and Planning, asking them to reinstate the state’s emergency COVID renting laws, and in particular the eviction moratorium, as an urgent measure to avoid exposing older Victorians to a risk of eviction and homelessness during the pandemic.
Hon. Melissa Horne
Minister for Consumer Affairs
Hon. Richard Wynne
Minister for Housing and Planning
I am writing on behalf of Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) to ask you to reinstate the state’s emergency COVID renting laws, and in particular the eviction moratorium, as an urgent measure to avoid exposing older Victorians to a risk of eviction and homelessness during the pandemic.
As you are aware, HAAG is a member-based organization fighting for housing justice for older Victorians. We provide a number of funded services targeting older renters who are at risk of homelessness, and aim to ensure they have access to safe, secure, affordable housing in which they can age in place. Over the last 18 months, COVID has radically reshaped what housing justice means in this context; older people are especially vulnerable to the pandemic, and face the most serious risks if they are not protected, including if they are forced to leave their current housing.
Our members and clients are financially disadvantaged, but that does not mean they rely on pensions or that they are insulated from the financial effects of lockdowns. Many of our clients supplement government benefits with casual, part-time or low-paid work. They tend to work in sectors hard-hit by COVID restrictions. Their incomes are now reduced, but their rents are not.
Victoria is currently halfway through what will be at least a four-week lockdown, with restrictions as severe as those that applied during last year’s Stage Four lockdown. The loss of income faced by older renters is even more serious than it was last year, when the Jobseeker supplement and Jobkeeper payment could help make up the difference.
Last year your government introduced the COVID-19 emergency rental laws, crucially including a moratorium on evictions based on rent arrears that accrued due to COVID- related loss of income. Recently, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal confirmed that no such protections now apply, and that renters who are 14 days or more in arrears can be lawfully evicted, even if it is uncontested that the rental shortfall is connected to the pandemic.
If the government fails to reintroduce the emergency rental laws – and provide for them to continue to apply or reapply them during any future lockdowns – many more older Victorians will face a serious risk of homelessness.
We look forward to hearing a response.
Phyll Williams, Chairperson