Australians evicted from their homes despite rental moratorium

Tenants around Australia have been issued with eviction notices despite a moratorium on rental evictions.

In March Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced there would be a nation-wide moratorium on some residential and commercial rental evictions for six months.

But not only are tenants being issued with eviction notices, they’re also being threatened with police intervention if they don’t pay up on late rent.

In emails seen by The New Daily, real estate agents are threatening to refer tenants to police if they do not pay overdue rent.

“The Warrant of Possession (eviction) will be executed by police and your rental default will be recorded with the National Tenancy Database,” read one email sent to Melbourne tenants who were 14 days behind in their payments.

No grounds

Some are just receiving ‘no grounds’ eviction notices – a practice that is still legal around the country whereby a tenant can be asked to vacate a property with no reason given.

NSW woman Elizabeth, who did not want her full name used, was served a ‘no grounds’ eviction after she complained about mould growing in her home.

“There’s mould in the entranceway … the whole property has mould. The kitchen sink if I don’t continually wipe it down, grows black toxic mould around it,” she told The New Daily. 

“I sent an email on the 15th, sent photos of the mould. It was about 10 past three.

“At 4.30pm [the real estate agent] hand-delivered the eviction notice. I heard it plop in the letterbox.

“I’ve been here eight years.”

Elizabeth had been compensated with reduced rent while her garden had essential work done, and she said she thinks the combination pushed them to evict her.

She has to be out in three months, the minimum time for no grounds evictions.

Melbourne woman Michelle Buckle, 32, has been sent two notices to vacate since March.

“Basically, when the lockdown happened back at the end of March, straight away I got sent two notices to vacate over the next couple of weeks,” she said.

Ms Buckle is immunocompromised and on a disability pension. She works as an entertainer and lost all her income when the pandemic hit.

“I contacted [the real estate agents] to say the rent would be late, and I had just lost all this income. I didn’t know how long it would be, just that it would be late. Then they sent me a notice to vacate within a week.

“And then they sent the second one a couple of weeks later.”

Eviction loophole

Although the Prime Minister announced the moratorium in March, only three states implemented protection against evictions – Tasmania, Victoria and NSW.

Even though renters in those three states have legislated protection from eviction, some are still being ordered out of properties under clauses as broad as “any grounds” by landlords who want them out.

Coronavirus-related evictions will be banned.

Renters are still being booted out.

Jemima Mowbray, policy and advocacy co-ordinator at the Tenants Union NSW, said the eviction moratoriums didn’t offer full protection.

“The moratoriums have only ever covered limited evictions for a limited group of renters,” Ms Mowbray said.

“Many renters who are financially impacted by COVID-19 don’t quite meet the strict eligibility criteria. Even where they do, they are facing eviction for a range of other reasons – even no reason at all,” she added.

Ms Mowbray said she had been contacted by a significant number of renters seeking advice or support because they tried to negotiate a rent reduction with their landlord and instead got served a ‘no grounds’ eviction.

“It’s a loophole that unfortunately too many landlords have taken advantage of,” she said.

Ms Mowbray said the eviction moratoriums and various rent assistance packages delivered in some states had provided a level of relief, but they should be extended and strengthened.

Eirene Tsolidis Noyce from the newly established Renters and Housing Union Vic said since March her organisation had been helping dozens of people who had been issued with eviction notices.

“We’re seeing a lot of cases … a lot of agents are exploiting fear and manipulating renters who don’t know the legal process and what their rights are,” Ms Noyce said.

“Renters don’t realise what their rights are in that situation and to avoid the stress and the police turning up at their door, or to avoid being evicted, they’ll leave and desperately find a new home in a pandemic.”

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