Rent reforms: Landlords may forgive but will they forget?

Opinion

By LIAM BLAND

While the State Government’s backflip on renter protection laws is welcome news to thousands of outraged Queensland property owners, landlords may not simply forgive and forget at this year’s state election.

In a statement earlier this month, Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni announced the State Government’s proposed ‘Renter Protection Package’.

The proposed protections included several controversial law changes, such as rent waivers for up to 12 months, the ability for a tenant to cancel their lease with only a week’s notice, and the right to refuse virtual inspections of the property.

In an interview last week, Real Estate Institute of Queensland chief executive officer Antonia Mercorella said the protections were unfairly skewed towards renters and left landlords vulnerable.

The proposed laws prompted the REIQ to launch a campaign against the package. The campaign saw tens of thousands of furious landlords flood Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s office with emails, and on Friday evening Mr de Brenni announced that the State Government would take on board the feedback it had received.

Mr de Brenni outlined the changes made to the package in a statement on Sunday. He said renters suffering financially due to coronavirus would now have to provide evidence of lost income if they wanted to be protected by the freeze on evictions.

Tenants will now have to show an income reduction of 75 per cent and have less than $5000 in cash to break their lease outside of their normal agreement, and must also agree to virtual inspections. The statement also said landlords would be able to negotiate repayments with their tenants, as opposed to just waivers.

Ms Mercorella said she was pleased with the government’s proposed changes to the package.

“I think what’s been announced … is far fairer and more balanced and does take into account property owners as well as tenants,” she said.

However, with October’s State Government election looming, Labor may have a hard time redeeming themselves in the eyes of Queensland’s ever-growing “mum and dad investor” population.

According to a 2019 report from real estate research group Propertyology, 77 per cent of landlords who own just one investment property earn less than $100,000 a year, and nearly half earn less than $50,000; a far cry from the millionaire-moguls many of us picture in our heads.

These everyday property owners, who have dug deep into their earnings to make a long-term investment for their retirement fund, may feel as though they have been marginalised as the top-end of town by the current state government.

For many landlords, property is their greatest asset.

As such, they will want a government that is proactive, and not just reactive, to the interests of property owners, and simply listening after the fact may not cut it.

recent survey conducted by polling company Insightfully revealed that Queenslanders are the least pleased of all Australians with their state government’s response to COVID-19, with just 20 per cent of voters saying they were “very satisfied” with how the Palaszczuk government has handled the pandemic.

These statistics will be worrying for the state government, which will need to boost that number before October’s election. Labor now has five months to show Queensland landlords that they have their back, and in turn, their votes.

The State Government’s backflip on the renter protection package is certainly a step in the right direction, but only time will tell if it is enough to get Queensland property owners back on board.

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