When the pandemic hit our shores in March 2020, the Commonwealth and state and territory Governments introduced a range of emergency measures to assist landlords and tenants who may have been impacted by the economic effects of COVID-19.
The “emergency period” in WA was originally scheduled to run from 30 March 2020 to 30 September 2020 and later extended until 28 March 2021.
So unless the Government chooses to extend it once again (which there is currently no sign of), it is due to end shortly. Similar programs are also due to end in other states including NSW, Victoria, and South Australia.
We take a look at what this will mean for landlords and tenants in Perth.
What happened during the emergency period?
There was a moratorium on evictions, a ban on increasing rents, all leases that expired were converted to periodical tenancies unless both parties agreed to enter into a new fixed-term agreement, and landlords had to waive interest on any rent arrears that accrued. Additionally, landlords who were impacted financially by COVID-19 did not have to undertake some types of repairs.
Overall at Rentwest we saw around 5% of our tenants financially affected by COVID. And the good news was that most of these tenants were assisted by the $2,000 Residential Rent Relief Scheme offered by the WA Government.
What actually changes with the Emergency Period ends?
It will be back to business as usual for residential landlords and tenants when the emergency period comes to an end. Leases can again be terminated, renewed, and rents increased.
Some of the emergency provisions, like the ban on rent increases, will end the day after the end of the emergency period on 28 March. However, other things, like repayment arrangements will remain in place for three months beyond the end of the emergency period, until the end of June 2021.
We believe that rents are likely to increase
We think that one of the biggest impacts will be rent increases across Perth.
During the emergency period, rent increases had to be postponed. Despite this, and thanks in part to very low vacancy rates, rents in Perth actually increased over 2020. So many people are anticipating rents will continue to rise now that they can, actually, be increased as part of a normal tenancy.
Because renters have been spared any increases over the past year (generally, the rent can’t be increased more than every six months), it means that most tenants will now be hit with a double increase.
For example, say a tenant is renting a property at $350 per week. The rent would have normally been increased by approximately $20 last October, and the property would soon be due for another rent increase or review. Given that rents have increased a lot, this increase may be $40 per week. So, a tenant may potentially need to adjust to paying $60 more rent. Some tenants may struggle to adjust to this larger increase at once.
The WA Government acknowledges that rents are likely to be increasing, and has expanded the COVID-19 relief grant to assist Centrelink recipients facing significant rent increases. You can find out more about it here.
We also think it will create more of a landlord’s market
The second impact we predict is that we see Perth becoming much more of a landlord’s market as the emergency period ends. This is because, with a super low vacancy rate currently across the Perth rental market, owners can not only charge more rent, they also no longer need to tolerate mediocre tenants.
One of the biggest issues with the emergency period was that we were restricted with the action we could take when tenants were not paying rent on time, or not properly caring for a property unless it was severe damage. Instead, we could only warn tenants that they should improve the way they were caring for the property, otherwise they may be given the notice to vacate at the end of the emergency period. Once the emergency period ends, these tenants could find it very difficult to secure another property with a poor rental reference, or a record of not paying rent on time.
How is the Perth rental market right now?
According to the latest Domain Rent Report, released in January, Perth rents experienced the greatest growth in rents in the whole country last year, with a rise of 13.5 per cent for houses and 12.9 per cent for units. It’s the largest rent increase since 2013, and with vacancy rates dropping to 0.9%, the tables are certainly turning towards a landlord’s market.
You can see some of the great Perth properties we have available for rent right here.
Get in touch
If you have concerns about the end of the emergency period and your particular situation contact your Rentwest property manager for advice. You can also contact Consumer Protection for information on 1300 304 054 or [email protected].