PROPERTY

'Don't evict me': the letter to send your landlord if you can't pay rent

By

With 8 million Australians renting three million properties, what do you do if you can't pay the rent because of the impact of coronavirus?

So far state and federal governments haven't announced measures to freeze rents. Banks are giving customers help with their loans, but this doesn't help renters.

Pressure is mounting to help renters with more than 80 organisations and experts around Australia calling on all Commonwealth, state and territory governments to put a stop on evictions because of unpaid rent during the COVID-19 health crisis.

coronavirus dont evict me letter from tenant to landlord

They want a temporary eviction moratorium to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and before the stop on evictions is lifted, governments must have a plan to ensure the whole community can recover, and not leave some burdened with debt.

"Many workers, especially contractors and casual workers, will suffer from lost incomes. Many will fall into rent arrears and be at risk of termination and eviction. People facing eviction are less able to take actions required to minimise transmission of COVID19, particularly where they become homeless, and will become more vulnerable to illness," according to the statement from tenancy groups, welfare organisations and academics.

There is some financial help on offer but the extra coronavirus supplement payment of $550 a fortnight to new and existing income support recipients will not be paid until April 27.

In the meantime, tenants.org.au has a pro forma letter for you to send to your landlord, written by one of its community members, Sage.

We're cutting through the confusion to help you manage your money during the coronavirus outbreak. Click here for more on how COVID-19 could affect your job, budget, super and investments.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.
Comments
Emma C
March 25, 2020 5.30pm

I'm with Monica, if their budgeting is already pretty tight what do landlords do without the rental income? Default on their loan?

Erin Waskas
March 29, 2020 7.51pm

Why are all the landlords on here whining- reinforcing what renters think of us. No we are not all sitting on a pile of gold but that is why bank are to defer mortgage repayments- it's not complicated. Our tenants sent us their job loss proof and Centrelink app info and we showed we rely on rent to pay mortgage by showing the path of the the rental income. But when we called our bank they didn't even ask for any of this proof and DEFERRED repayments for six months. They ask two questions- put me on hold for 2 minutes came back and told me deferred for 6 months- I didn't even ask for 6months. This was one of the big 4 banks too and my brother just had it with Macquarie as well so all banks are doing it. SO all the tenants are saying is pass it on! Notice I said defer! So that includes interest too. Stop carrying on like Toorak nannies and pick up the phone. Work together not against.

Emma Crew
March 30, 2020 11.00am

"Notice I said defer!"

Thanks for the exclamation mark, Erin, that was really helpful and definitely clarified that you said defer. Unfortunately, my bank explicitly states that deferring the repayments means that interest continues to accrue and simply means that I will pay more for my repayments later. Before you get on your high horse about "Toorak nannies" (are Toorak nannies known for their investments property purchases?) let me just say that I am a single mother supporting two young children who has invested everything I have into a property that I rent to others while living in a tiny, unrenovated, 70 year old cottage in a small town myself. My rental property is far from salubrious but is certainly far better than the house I live in. I have no wish to evict my tenants and would be more than happy to allow them to stay if they lost their jobs due to the impacts of COVID-19, however, I believe the banks should put a freeze on interest during this period for people who are impacted in this way. The banks have much more wriggle room than I do.

Kim Shaw
April 1, 2020 9.09am

I agree. I have no problem with my tenant not paying rent for up to 6 months as long as my bank waives the interest for the same period. We too have a little investment property which we bought to try and provide for our retirement, it is mortgaged and the rent does not cover the mortgage payments or outgoings. So if our tenant were to pay no rent, we would, in effect, be paying her to live in our place as we pay the water she uses etc. We can't be hit from both sides, to capitalise interest is not helping us, it means the banks dont lose at all and in fact make more as we would owe more at the end. If the tenant has free rent we should have no interest payments, it has to be a fair deal, this is too one sided as it is. I'm all for helping out, but I expect to be helped too.

James Middleson
May 6, 2020 7.30am

I concur. Its even worse for people like me as I rent out my flat which includes electricity in the rent for a meager $100 per week, I now have to pay $50 a week in costs just to cover my tennant's electricity! I cant just change their rental agreement to not include electricity because of coronavirus! Also my flat is in a trust so i am probably not eligible for deferral on mortgage anyway, plus it still accrues interest while deffered. NOT FAIR, NOT AUSTRALIAN.

Fraser Samuel
April 12, 2020 8.01pm

Clearly we need to balance competing needs.

From a tenants perspective the welfare payments are extremely generous and when a room in melbourne is 200 to 250 a week most, if they are sharing should be able to pay the rent.

Secondly, tenants hould have to prove they don't have anywhere else to live like living with family. Many tenants are young people who are choosing to live separate from their family. I had short term contacts working around Australia & I lived in pub rooms, a tent in a caravan park and a caravan. It was fine. I would even be happy to put my swag in someone's back yard.

From a landlords perspective we must be amenable to negotiate. For example on one property I have the rent probably needs to fall by 50 dollars to be affordable.

I suppose if everyone is honest and reasonable then solutions should be possible. We also need protections when people aren't honest.

As a side issue I reckon a debt crisis will occur in Australia.

From the landlords perspective we should feel fortunate that the welfare is so generous tenants should be able to meet their rents. We are effectively getting a subsidy.

monica beran
March 25, 2020 12.09am

If tenants can't pay rent what do landlords do when they have a large mortgage on the property?

natalie Scott
March 26, 2020 6.38am

Contact your bank and talk to them about deferring you payments.most are offering 3-6 months hold on payments.

James Denton
March 27, 2020 7.07am

Oh really? banks are not waiving mortgage payments, they will capitalise interest and require repayments at a later date, at a higher rate. So greedy banks get their money. Tenants (including those taking advantage of the situation) get to live free. Property owner goes to the wall. Just so you know, we are pension age with a small flat which is rented out. If rent stops, we'd be ruined.

natalie Scott
March 27, 2020 9.15am

I am aware that they will still charge interest and that payment will still need to be made later that is why I said differ not waive. I too own a small unit which is rented out. I have differed payments In the past when out of work and have done so now.

En Sh
March 28, 2020 5.13pm

Where did you get these info from natalie? Our mortgage is with cba and deferal would cost us far more than rental loss itself. Seems like banks just seeing this covid19 and its misery upon ordinary people as an opportunity to milk is out even harder.

Susanna Laurens
March 25, 2020 5.44pm

We have a couple of rental properties , negatively geared as we already take tenants who have had challenges to get accommodation due to being low income earners . If we did not get the rent ( which we have at below market value already ) we ourselves would loose our own income and possibly our own home .

Michael Parker
March 25, 2020 6.04pm

Yeah. Just ignore any problems not paying your rent means to the landlords. So one-sided these articles.

Harry M
March 25, 2020 6.44pm

Couldn't agree more with these comments from Emma, Monica and Susanna.

Lets finally dispel the myth that landlords are kings and queens in castles living the high life. The reality is most "landlords" are middle income earners, many with families who work incredibly hard (and pay substantial amounts of tax relative to their income) and many are casual workers too !

No one wants to evict a defaulting tenant under current circumstances but many of us will be left with little choice. Tenants have to pay the rent just as we have to pay the mortgage and all the other expenses that come with owning a rental property AND we still have to put food on our own tables.

Where is the $550 per fortnight supplement for us ??

The middle income earners always get screwed - we contribute the most to society (relative to our income) but get the least in return.

Harry M
March 26, 2020 9.28am

Susan - I noticed you (or your staff) edited my comment about your article being one-sided and biased ? Why ?

The first thing they should have taught you about journalism / writing is to accept criticism.

Money magazine
March 26, 2020 11.20am

Hi Harry,

Constructive feedback is always welcome. Your comment was edited by our team because we do not permit personal attacks on our writers.

- Money team

Fred Michaels
March 25, 2020 11.41pm

I think much has been said about renters but not enough empathy for landlords. Rental concession is not an ask, its been stated like its a given. What if I told you that as a landlord I rely on that rental income. Let me go one step further and say I will lose my own home without it.

Puts things in perspective,no? I don't see Susan Hely addressing this issue.

Col Morris
March 26, 2020 9.25am

As a landlord (one rental property only) and home owner I have the safety net of being able to sell my investment property should I need to. Before I bought it I did a worst case scenario with my husband to decide whether it was a good investment or a mill stone around our necks. Luckily for us we paid off the mortgage quickly from our savings and surplus in our principal home loan. We went into landlording with our eyes wide open to what we would do if there was no rent coming in for a year at worst and all you other land lords should have done the same.

Sell the house if you get into difficulties, that you should have planned for before embarking on the investment.

Have a heart and don't put vulnerable people/families out on the street.

Talk to your bank and ask for mortgage relief until things go back to normal.

Emma Crew
March 30, 2020 11.12am

I find it hard to believe we will be able to sell a house easily right now. Just as easy as unemployed will find it to get another job, right? I also question the fairness of having to do so because the government suggest landlords should simply cop non-payment of rental income. It could be said that currently unemployed workers went into the job market with their eyes equally as wide open as landlords who may receive no rent for 6 months. Who could have predicted this? Are you actually saying that landlords should have predicted they may get no return for 6 months on a perfectly leasable property that they have maintained and invested time and money into while a tenant still lives in it? I guess all humans should equally plan for 6 months of no income just in case there is a global pandemic and they lose their jobs. How irresponsible of them not to have at least 6 months to a year worth of living expenses saved. Perhaps they can sell their family if times are tough. The mortgage relief you speak of involves the accrual of interest thus raising repayments at the end of the deferral.

Col Morris
March 30, 2020 11.59am

Yes, Emma that is what I do suggest. If you can't fully support the costs of your rental for 12 months, should anything happen, not covered by Landlord Insurance then I don't think real estate is the investment vehicle for you. Perhaps you would have been better off investing in Super, a managed fund or shares. That way you could lose your job (not just the tenant) and you'd be okay.

Personally we have enough cash available in term deposits that should the pandemic or other disaster occur, we could be self sufficient for 2 years. Under the present circumstances, we could even claim Jobseeker Allowance because they aren't doing liquid asset waiting periods. Normally we'd have to support ourselves for 6 months before we could be paid the dole. We feel that we planned adequately before investing in real estate, more people should have too if it means they have to throw fellow citizens out of their homes just to make ends meet themselves. I have no sympathy for anyone who made such foolish decisions to buy real estate when they should have invested elsewhere. I do have sympathy for the families unfortunate enough to be renting from them.

I think many "Mums and Dads" are about to reap the rewards of their bad investment decisions.

Emma Crew
March 30, 2020 1.13pm

I'm so pleased for you... you definitely sound like you are pleased with yourself. Enjoy!

Cathy Matthews
April 14, 2020 8.23am

Col Morris is absolutely correct. Plain and simple. Property investors who failed to undertake a risk assessment have built the proverbial house of cards.

Chris E
March 26, 2020 7.28am

This is the problem.

Society seems to think "oh no, the poor tenant", whereas landlords are seen as "greedy", "rich" or somehow "able to afford it".

We can't. Most of us are none of this and are normal, middle class "mums and dads" trying to make our eventual retirement a little bit better by trying what we can and know to get ahead.

You go to the Tribunal, you have everything stacked against you (all the protection in law is for the tenant). So if the Government is backing the tenant (a LIBERAL one at that !), how about back all those "mums and dads" who are the ones that, if it wasn't for us, there would be no house to rent ?!

Money magazine
March 26, 2020 11.30am

Thank you for your comments.

Susan Hely wrote last week about where people - including property owners - can turn for assistance. You can read that story here: https://www.moneymag.com.au/ha...

We are working to inform all our readers, whether they be landlords, tenants or homeowners, and help them through these tough times.

Unfortunately the government has announced little in the way of relief for landlords. We are following this closely and will update you with news.

- Money team

Emma Crew
March 30, 2020 1.15pm

Thank you Money magazine

Peggy Poo
March 26, 2020 11.56am

This was always the risk for those landlords who purchased 'investment'properties... whilst not even having their own homes paid off first. They have had little sympathy for tenants who have effectively been paying over inflated rents and essentially paying these peoples mortgages for many years now and at the same time imposing their own set of draconian standards they wish tenants to abide by and year by year increasing rents all with no sense of stability. So I have little sympathy now their greedy gambling is coming undone.

Harry M
March 26, 2020 4.24pm

You do understand that without people owning investment properties to put up for rent - you'd be homeless right ???

No one held a gun to your head when you signed the lease "Peggy Poo". A contract is a meeting of the minds - you pay rent and you get to live in the house. No exceptions. Your welcome to move to a socialist country anytime you want.

Chris E
March 28, 2020 11.13pm

"Draconian standards" ? I think you'll find that the Residential Tenancies legislation is very much in favour of and on the side of the tenant. Those are the only standards you need to meet. Unless you're talking about "you can't put a picture up" or "repaint", but have you really asked if you can't ?

Draconian would be if the landlord was able to enter the property whenever they liked, several times a day and / or was assaulting or abusing the tenant in some way, such as threatening to evict them for not maintaining the property well above and beyond what is reasonable, or they "didn't like the smell of their food because it made the house stink", or report them to Immigration / Centrelink merely because they suspect they were born outside of Australia or were working and claiming welfare.

You might laugh but I've seen it happen.

Rents are a function of the market. If you don't like it, live somewhere cheaper. This is capitalism, not communism. And as for my rent, I haven't increased mine since 2016 which was and still is in line (slightly below) the market average for the suburb, and even then, only by 5% and to cover lawn mowing costs that are outsourced.

So calling landlords "greedy" is wrong. How about "enterprising" and "not willing to risk the Government looking after us in retirement", or "taking the burden off the public purse" in that respect ?

Having a good tenant to pay the rent and taking care of them like gold (e.g. fixing stuff as soon as it gets broken) is what smart landlords do. My tenants get Christmas gifts of $100 gift cards and wine because those landlords know that 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

Jenny Ellis
March 26, 2020 2.27pm

Freezing rent does it mean the renter can live in dwelling for free or has to catch up with payments later. Spoke to a renter who thought they wouldn't have to pay rent until this is all over. They were long term unemployed that will receive the extra welfare payments but expected not to pay rent

David D
March 26, 2020 6.15pm

Rent should be free for all tentants. Mortgage should be wipe out clean so landlord can own property outright. No rate, no tax. When this is all over, tenant can resume rent and landlord can own property without debt.

Col Morris
March 26, 2020 10.07pm

Peggy Poo, I agree with your sentiments. Why are we the only ones who realise this is serious and not the time to ask what about me.

Back in the depression early last century some landlords didn't get paid and some shop keepers didn't get paid for a long time. They realised there wasn't much anyone could do. Life had changed and it was better having a grateful tenant in place looking after the home, than an empty house for squatters to destroy. Those renters knew there was almost no chance of getting another house so they looked after the one they had.

Jimbo James
March 27, 2020 7.21am

Get your head out of the sand landlords. People have been forced to loose their income. I don't know where you think people will now get now money to pay your rent. Yes it sucks but it is the reality. You chose to buy a rental property and you now have a choice to either sell it or stop paying interest to the banks. But don't think you are not going to be affected by this. Wake up to yourselves and take action to both help yourself and your tenants.

Harry M
March 27, 2020 11.44am

How bout YOU get your head out of the sand "Jimbo". Everyone needs to be responsible for themselves instead of expecting government / taxpayers having to "parent" you and come to the rescue because of life decisions.

The responsibility of an adult is to ensure you have enough savings to cover bills including rent due to unexpected circumstances. If you don't - then you can't afford to live in the house chosen to rent and need to downgrade / move to an area with cheaper rents. Likewise landlords have a responsibility to have savings too - the difference is all the bleeding hearts cry about the tenants welfare, never property owners.

As tenants - pay the rent as per the contract you freely entered (which assuming you read and noticed it doesn't specify all those times when it would be ok NOT to pay rent) OR live on the streets - entirely up to you and have some gratitude for the people who put a roof over your head.

Oh and the advice for landlords to sell their property - great idea.....except the first thing the new owner will likely do is put the rent up due to all the upfront costs of purchasing. If only life was simple.

Chris E
March 28, 2020 10.59pm

To Peggy, Jimbo etc. who obviously have never owned a house or investment property (and thus, never had to run the latter like a business, which it is), if people lost their incomes in any other situation (i.e. how is this REALLY that different) and couldn't pay their mortgage or their rent (which is essentially, rent to the bank in a sense), the bank would foreclose on them.

If business owners can't pay their rents on a commercial property, they're kicked out. Same thing.

Welcome to the adult world.

En Sh
March 28, 2020 5.44pm

Here's the story of one of those "landlords". In 2017 we paid all our savings as deposite to buy our house in one of western outskirts of Sydney, with a big mortgage. After a year we moved and rented out because I had to change my job for a higher pay as my wife couldn't find any job in the area and living costs were unbearable. This week I was informed by the property agent that the tenant told them that they cannot pay the rent because of the virus. I visited my bank's website and learned about their mortgage deferral whith maximum duration of 6 months. But I also soon realised that the cost of the capitalised interest on my mortgage would be almost twice as the total rental income for this amount of time. So what should I do now? Let then bank abuse the situation one more time? Or just forget about my deposit and put everyone including the bank and the tenant in the same situation I'm in by defaulting say in 4-5 months? Any better suggestions?

Just hope "money" pay some respect to themselves and won't censor me.

Les Maxwell
March 29, 2020 7.39pm

My tenant long term welfare recipients rang me and I quote 'hey we don't have to pay rent now'.

tried to get in touch with the no response

I have had my hours cut in half my partner has had hers cut and my son stood down

I will have to sell and will image if mums and dad investors sold all their properties it would be like when they tried to abolish negative gearing

i have lost faith in people and rental properties this is my third attempt and my last on rentals not worth the hassle

Shanon T
April 1, 2020 2.20pm

We purchased a house while I was pregnant and decided to rent it out for a year until we are ready to move with baby. We have an interest only loan covered by rents. I am on maternity leave and my husband may not keep his job. Our tenants can't afford to pay and now we can't afford our loan. Initial review of insurance suggests they might not pay out unless we evict which we can't do and wouldn't want to anyway. How do we support our family of 4? A deferral could result in negative equity that we can't afford long term either. We are compassionate people but we simply can't afford to bear someone else's rent for 6 months. No loss to our bank or insurer though, hmmm.

C Louis
April 1, 2020 7.12pm

Hi, can I ask if anyone knows if we can ask for proof that the tenant actually lost their job because of COVID19? My tenant requested free rent and pressure was put on me my the property manager that I have no choice but to say yes. However the request from the tenant went from I might lose hrs give me a reduced rent (I asked for proof) to I've put made redundant so it is what it is. If this is a genuine that I have no issue trying to work out a solution although money if tight however the language used in the request just seems like they are 'trying it on'. Even the property manager hasn't asked for any proof & is now telling me that I can't evict for 6months even if I receive no rent. Many thanks

Sharna Jane
April 14, 2020 4.11am

The Real Estate Agency would have asked the tenants for this proof before even suggesting to talk to you and advise giving them free rent. You don't have to give free rent you can write back and request further proof of their situation and off to reduce the rent for a period of time you could state for two months and relook at their situation to decide if to continue it or have rent go back up to the normal weekly rent payments. I say off it on the lower side (2 months) because most will eventually end up with the $1,100+ a fortnight from Centrelink but it can take a few weeks for them to be approved 2-4weeks so two months is enough time frame and I guess it depends how much rent they pay weekly I mean if they pay high rent $400+ a week we'll keeping it at that once they get Centrelink isn't helpful as it wouldn't leave much for food, bills etc. Just be smart and not greedy during this time, you could have this tenant leave to only end up with one who won't pay for months and save their money using your property as free accommodation ??

C Louis
April 14, 2020 8.04am

Thank you for taking the time to respond. Once I requested proof again the tenant changed his story to say he had managed to negotiate and not be made redundant but reduce his pay to 50% & therefore he will pay 40% less rent to me. The property manager has not requested any proof before coming to me, she just continues to put pressure on me to accept the reduction. His rent is $390pw. I have offered him to add someone to the tenancy agreement to assist his payments because he lives in a 2BR unit alone (however from the inspections the spare bedroom has a full wardrobe of clothes & make up station with lots of personal belongings suggesting he his sub-letting). It may sounds harsh, however until I see proof that he is sincere I am refusing to enter into an agreement. He first started requesting the reduction a month ago & is refusing to provide evidence of his circumstances. I will be happy to provide assistance to a genuine person but my guts says he is not.

Nick N
April 12, 2020 4.08pm

My tenants have paid their rent late every month since moving in last June. They simply don't answer or reply to property managers calls/msgs/emails until they were given an eviction notice roughly 4 weeks ago.

Refusing to provide evidence of loss of income while CBA continues to take mortgage repayments from me. Maybe Government should look at stopping long term dole recipients current double payments and look after tax payers that are trying to achieve a decent retirement through leasing property.

Sharna Jane
April 14, 2020 4.03am

???? some homeowners/landlords will now feel the stress, emotions etc that they make their tenants feel ???? so many landlords don't fix things, complain over spilt milk and control every move their tenants make not allowing pets or photos to be hang on the wall, complain when tenants make a complaint about something not working or breaking that isn't the tenants fault this just might be a good life lessons for some ?? so many landlords whinging about what are they gonna do if tenants don't pay rent ?? let's see you could come to the table during these hard times and help workout an agreement with your tenants and still have some form of money coming in from them to put towards your mortgage and speak to your bank to help you further or you can have tenants stay their not pay rent save their money and move on leaving you without or you could kick them out and still be left to pay the full amount yourself. You need to remember that most of y'all not all but most wouldn't have their investment properties without tenants paying all, most of some of the mortgage remember that. It will truly show what some of y'all are like if you have no heart towards others during this time especially those who just lost their job karmas a sweetheart remember that. Work together and keep in peace and harmony. Have a lovely day.

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