Coronavirus: Some Melbourne landlords suspend, reduce rent

Coronavirus: Some Melbourne landlords suspend, reduce rent nmprofetimg 1546

White knight Melbourne landlords are offering to reduce or suspend rental payments indefinitely as a growing pool of tenants face being unable to afford their homes amid the coronavirus crisis.

Collings Real Estate head of property management Caleb Pikoulas said about a dozen of his landlord clients had made this generous proposal in recent days, to apply “from now onwards until the situation improves”.

“They want to look out for their tenants,” he said.

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The coronavirus crisis is having a substantial impact on the property market. Picture: Tim Carrafa

Mr Pikoulas said many of his landlords had accepted the reality of the situation and would look to freeze their mortgages while tenants were unable to pay, rather than move to evict them.

But those who relied on the rental income generated by their investment properties to cover their own life expenses were in a tougher spot.

His agency — which mostly covers Melbourne’s inner north and northeast — was accordingly offering free property management services to landlords in financial hardship over the next six months to help ease the pain.

Mr Pikoulas said about 10 per cent of the tenants he worked with also contacted him about concerns they wouldn’t be able to meet future rental payments.

“We had a tenant call us (on Monday), as both husband and wife lost their incomes as of Friday,” he said.

“I would expect by Friday this week, about another 20-30 tenants will contact us.

“A lot of them think they’re going to end up homeless, a few have cried to us. I’ve had to keep them calm.”

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Both landlords and tenants are financial hurting.

Besser + Co head of property management Marcel Dybner said while he’d also been hearing from some anxious tenants, he’d been flooded with calls from “panicked landlords” who were losing their jobs and whose properties had mortgages and “a lot of debt” attached to them.

“We’re waiting to see what the government offers (in terms of stimulus), after that we’ll give advice,” Mr Dybner said.

Tuesday night’s national cabinet meeting was due to consider reforms to protect renters — with ideas including a moratorium on evictions, more flexibility for payments and relief from utility bills.

Ray White Group chief executive of property management Emily Sim said the situation highlighted the importance of having landlord insurance to provide protection from loss of rent.

She urged tenants to investigate their eligibility for JobSeeker payments, as this would open up opportunities for rent assistance.

Tenants Victoria last week called for a temporary ban on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing tenants were “at greater risk” of contracting the virus if they lost their homes.

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samantha.landy@news.com.au