The majority of renters in Australia are finding it harder to pay the rent due to COVID-19, a survey conducted by Australia’s leading rental property website Rent.com.au, has revealed.

Almost two-thirds say they would like more support and information from Government, property managers and property owners.

Around the world, communities are impacted by COVID-19 differently. In this recent Rent.com.au renters survey, 1,600 Australian respondents gave an insight into the direct impact of the pandemic on their rental affordability, the response to the crisis by the industry, and their plans and sentiments for the future.

Rental affordability under stress

While 59% of renters indicated they are earning less as an impact of the pandemic, 33% have stopped working completely and 22% indicated that their ability to pay the rent has been severely affected.

Rent.com.au Chief Executive Officer, Greg Bader, said. “We know the necessary shutdowns have been devastating for many businesses, particularly those in hospitality, tourism and retail. These are also the sort of industries that typically over-index with younger staff, the largest cohort of the renting community.

“Even though state and federal governments moved relatively quickly to support tenants, there is still a level of confusion and uncertainty in the renting market in terms of process and responsibilities. Over half of the respondents (53%) would like to see more support for renters from our leaders and just 21% believe the response so far has been enough.

“As we start to emerge from the worst of the pandemic, we (as an industry and as a community) need to understand that renters, who make up 30% of us, will continue to deal with the financial impact for months or years to come. Short-term protections such as a moratorium on evictions, or a deferral in rent, provide some comfort, but there are concerns that this is just kicking the can down the road. We hope to see the industry and government respond in innovative ways to support renters and the industry-at-large.”

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More communication from property managers and landlords needed

Two-thirds of renters said they don’t feel confident asking their property manager or landlord for help, and only 32% said their property manager or landlord was helpful and informative during the crisis.

“We would encourage property managers and owners to check in with their tenants, “ Mr Bader said. “Open and honest communication is the key and can only be an advantage for all parties as we prepare for the months ahead.

“Not all renters are actually seeking financial assistance. In fact, only 35% have asked for a reduction or a deferral in their rent. Of those, 50% have successfully negotiated (or are in the process of doing so), but unfortunately that means that half have been refused.

“Obviously, every case is different, and the renter will generally be required to demonstrate any impact on their income/affordability. Property managers and landlords are also affected by the crisis and all of us are navigating new ground. So once again, open communication is important, with both parties needing to be empathic and understanding of each other’s situation.”

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Moving plans left on hold

The survey also revealed that half of the respondents had planned to move in the next six months. Of that group though, 46% have now put those plans on hold indefinitely, with another 30% indicating that their planned moves will be delayed.

“This is not surprising during a period of uncertainty. With record levels of rental properties available right now and the possibility of downward pressure on rents, there is even more incentive for landlords and property managers to negotiate with their tenants, because finding a new one will be a little harder,” Mr Bader said.

“We have seen some positive sentiment returning to the market in the last two weeks. Activity is certainly up (traffic, Renter Resumes, property enquiries, for example) from where it was a month ago. With talk of the shutdowns being wound back, 28% of renters surveyed indicated that they were now feeling optimistic about life post COVID-19.

“That’s a good sign for us as a community, and we hope to see that grow over the next few months, as the economy re-opens and renters get a little more security. In the meantime, we encourage renters and property managers to stay connected.”

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