Western Australia’s peak real estate body has welcomed the State Government’s new rent relief measures, saying they will provide a “circuit breaker” for struggling tenants and support worried investors.
The Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA) CEO Cath Hart said the $24.4 million WA Rent Relief Program would help protect vulnerable tenants facing eviction as well as investors battling rising interest rates.
“Rental conditions are extremely challenging at the moment, rents are at record highs and many tenants are experiencing significant rental stress,” Ms Hart said.
“The most vulnerable in our community are finding it difficult to meet their rent payments and some are falling into arrears, putting them at risk of eviction.
“It can be very hard to recover from this situation and can put people at risk of homelessness.”
Under the program, community organisations such as Anglicare WA and Vinnies WA will identify eligible tenants through existing services.
Relief may involve the payment of arrears, and for some of those, support will also be provided to cover up to 50 per cent of future rent costs for up to three months rent – capped at $5000.
To be eligible, tenants must demonstrate financial hardship, rental arrears, and risk of eviction.
The community service organisations involved will work with tenants and landlords to secure continuation of their tenancy agreements as a condition of the program.
Where required, future rent will be paid through a co-contribution model which requires the tenant to demonstrate their commitment to the tenancy through contributing to the ongoing rental costs. Rent relief will be paid directly to the landlord or via a property manager.
“The WA Rent Relief Program will help to keep a roof over the head of families that have hit hard times, helping them to get back on their feet,” Premier Roger Cook said.
It builds on the Cook Government’s reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987, which include limiting rent rises to once every 12 months, and prohibiting the practice of rent bidding to strengthen protections for tenants.
Changes are expected to come into effect in 2024.
“We’re using every lever we can to not only bolster the supply of housing, but also to support and keep people in their tenancies – given the current demand for housing,” housing minister John Carey said.
Ms Hart said the program would also benefit investors battling rising mortgage costs.
“The median rent has risen 18 per cent in the past year but mortgages are up 47 per cent with more RBA rate rises. Investors are under financial strain and some are selling,” she said.
“When tenants fall into arrears it impacts investors’ finances.
“By preventing this, the program supports investors too, helping keep them in the market.
“And we need every investor we can get right now.”
Ms Hart said the targeted rent relief would not inflate the rental market.
“Unlike some incentives, this focuses on vulnerable tenants, helping them meet current obligations and providing financial breathing room,” she said.
“It will act as a circuit breaker for struggling tenants, retaining their homes, and potentially provide months of additional support to get back on their feet.”