Property industry calls for more government action during coronavirus pandemic

Stock image.
Stock image.

PROPERTY industry bodies are calling for a range of actions from the government to protect the industry, its members and the public in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rent assistance
Reiwa has suggested extra rent assistance for residential tenants who lose their jobs as a result of the virus and safeguards for landlords if the tenant can no longer pay their rent in this situation.

This follows other calls for a ban on housing evictions over the next few months to support people who have lost their income because of the pandemic.

President Damian Collins said the whole industry needed to come together in order for there to be a reasonable solution for both tenants and landlords.

“(It) is a tough time for everyone, and we strongly encourage landlords to be understanding with rental payments during this time of uncertainty,”  he said.

“It is possible that people may start to fear eviction or even homelessness, but we want to stress that there is already legislation in place to stop landlords from evicting tenants during time of hardship.”

Mr Collins said while the state and federal government stimulus packages would help keep people in jobs, Reiwa urged the state government to consider introducing rental assistance in their next stimulus for those who found themselves out of work.

“What we need is for the government to provide emergency rent assistance to those affected and the banks and landlord insurers to commit to working with landlords affected by the coronavirus outbreak to ensure both tenants and landlord feel safe and secure during these stressful times,” he said.

“At the end of the day, if the owner cannot afford their mortgage, the tenant will end up homeless regardless, so all participants need to be considered in any package or changes”.

Update strata legislation
The Strata Community Association (SCA) WA wants “archaic” legislation requiring face-to-face strata meetings be changed to protect strata owners and managers.

President Scott Bellerby said the well-being of owners and managers was paramount and asked the government to allow video conferencing, particularly in the State’s remote regions.

There was also no option to delay meetings until the situation eventually improved as current legislation also compelled owners to ensure a meeting was held within 15 months of the previous annual general meeting.

Mr Bellerby said the legislation posed an extra threat to the strata industry during this time.

“The contractors servicing the strata industry are reliant on the ability of our strata companies to progress their annual general meetings for the approval of works to proceed and for budgeting purposes,” he said.

“Our inability in WA to conduct meetings remotely and the government’s recommendation to restrict public gatherings means our industry will go into standstill, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of people.”

SCA (WA) recommended all face-to-face general and council meetings be cancelled in the interests of staff and client safety and requested the State Government fast-track the Strata Titles General Regulations currently before Parliament, ensuring the proclamation of the Strata Titles Act 2018 occurred on May 1.

Mr Bellerby said doing so would enable the strata industry to operate in a safe and efficient manner during the coronavirus crisis.

“The new legislative reforms will enable owners of strata properties and strata managers to conduct remote meetings via tele/video conferencing, ensuring there is a safe environment for the industry to continue to operate, in line with all other current business practices across Australia,” he said.

Stamp duty and grants
While welcoming the economic measures to support small business, Master Builders WA has called for more measures to inject money into the economy to underpin confidence.

“If there is no confidence that there is a continuing pipeline of work many small builders won’t feel able to keep employees and apprentices on their books,” executive director John Gelavis said.

“Waiving all stamp duty and a $40,000 First Home Buyers Grant until 30 June 2020 would super-charge the housing sector and immediate deliver a tangible and immediate boost to the building industry and the broader economy.

“It would also help to activate the Federal Government’s $17.6 billion package; builders will be encouraged to take advantage of the expanded instant tax write-off and investment incentives if they are confident that they will have a pipeline of work,”

Mr Gelavis said the industry was also bracing for shortages, delayed delivery of some imported building products and a potential slowdown.

“Subcontractors and small building businesses face cash flow problems, with knock-on effects likely such as more insolvencies and fewer apprentices,” he said.

“This impact is looming over the next few months and additional government measures will be required.”

Fast-tracking government spending on social and transport infrastructure spending would also maintain confidence within the industry, keeping projects going, continuing the release of new ones and giving assurance on the pipeline of work.

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