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Tenants to receive extra cash to help pay the rent in Victoria

Victorian renters will receive extra support to help them pay their rent under a new $80 million fund in the state budget announced on Tuesday.

The funds will come into effect from April next year, offering extra cash to tenants still struggling to pay the rent after the federal government’s JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments end in March.

A ban on evictions for tenants, introduced to keep tenants in housing throughout the coronavirus pandemic, will also end in March next year.

As well as the help for tenants, a further $6 million in funding was set aside for Consumer Affairs Victoria to continue support through the residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Scheme and the Residential Tenancy Relief Scheme.

Tenant advocacy groups will also benefit from $600,000 in funding to continue their work with some of Victoria’s most vulnerable people, including support for culturally and linguistically diverse renters.

The funding comes as the government reported more than 57,000 renters and landlords had registered a reduced rent agreement at the start of November.

The government earlier announced a major investment in social and affordable housing, for those who find themselves facing homelessness.

The $5.3 billion boost will see 12,000 homes built over the next four years.

“It’s been a tough year for many, particularly tenants,” Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Melissa Horne said in a statement. “We’ve provided support and certainty throughout the pandemic – that will continue in our recovery too.”

While some tenants have successfully negotiated a rent reduction, there are many who have not been able to.

Figures released in August, at the height of Victoria’s experience of the pandemic, revealed fewer than one in 10 tenants who had lost income were able to negotiate a lower rent.

The figures from a Better Renting Survey also showed that of those who had lost income because of the COVID-19 crisis, 20 per cent were told they would not get a discount.

Around 9 per cent reported fruitless negotiations and 7.5 per cent that they were offered a rental deferral instead.

Likewise, landlords have reported financial difficulties with those who own investment properties struggling without being able to collect rent or even find tenants.

Many, including those in the inner city, have been impacted by the lack of tourists from interstate and overseas and from a lack of international students as Australia’s border remains closed.

Landlords with untenanted rentals will have their vacant residential land tax waived in 2021, for the time that properties sat empty in 2020.

“This recognises that with limitations on travel and on-site property inspections, many properties that would otherwise be occupied have remained vacant,” the budget papers stated.

Landlords have previously been offered a deferral to pay their land taxes until March next year, if their taxable landholdings are below $1 million.

Likewise, residential and commercial landlords have been offered a discount of up to 50 per cent on their 2020 land tax, if they offer eligible tenants rent relief. The remainder of the payment will be deferred until March next year.

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