Melbourne lockdown: renters flee Victoria, back out on leases

House for Rent

There are calls for more support for vulnerable renters.

Victorian renters have backed out of leases and moved interstate as a result of the latest coronavirus lockdown, with many left struggling to make ends meet, industry groups say.

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday announced a new federal support package of up to $500 for those unable to work because of a lockdown lasting longer than a week.

Eligible workers — including those impacted by greater Melbourne’s extended lockdown — who would normally work more than 20 hours a week will now be able to receive $500, while those working less than that will receive $325.

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Many Victorians are struggling to pay rent as a result of the snap lockdown.

Besser and Co partner and head of property management Marcel Dybner said while the payment was a step in the right direction, it would likely “just cover the cost of rent and leave renters struggling with other living costs”.

He said they had already spoken to a number of tenants struggling to pay rent while others had gone as far as to leave the state.

“We’ve got one tenant who works in hospitality and has another job as a DJ and all the venues have cancelled on him, Mr Dybner said.

“He’s said to us ‘I can’t risk it anymore, I don’t have any support in Melbourne’ and has decided to move back home to Adelaide.

“Last year’s lockdowns were really tough for him, this was the last straw.”

Mr Dybner said others had been left “unsure with what’s going to happen” or whether or not they would be able to afford a rental.

“We’ve had a few people who we had pre-approved (for rentals) who are now either staying put or now need something bigger to accommodate working from home,” he said.

“There is a real concern for tenants who are in this position. For a lot of people, they’re chewing into their savings or bond money to survive these two weeks (in lockdown) and they might have to stay where they are longer.

“There are a lot of people who are living week to week.”

He added that it should not be up to landlords to foot the bill for renters in need of help as a result of the lockdown.

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Others have been forced to move interstate

Council to Homeless Persons chief executive Jenny Smith said Victorians had already been struggling with high rent prices, with casual workers and industries impacted by the lockdown now in a “dire” situation.

“People who have lost shifts at work that they rely on to make ends meet should not have to endure hardship while Victoria acts to protect Australia from the threat of COVID-19,” Ms Smith said.

She called on the federal government to “increase JobSeeker to at least $65 per day, and reinstate targeted JobKeeper payments to help people keep their jobs during extended lockdowns” to “really give people a shot at affording rent”.

“These measures would reduce the likelihood of people experiencing homelessness due to the financial costs of the pandemic,” Ms Smith said.

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