Politics

Landlords Are Trying To Get Tenants To Prove How Much They Spend On Food And Entertainment

"Are you going to deny someone because they have a Netflix subscription?”

Landlord rent renters tenants

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A Victorian tenant who was hoping to negotiate a rent freeze was instead asked to confirm how much they spent on things like food and entertainment — and how much money they had in their superannuation account.

Both Joshua Badge and their partner lost their jobs due to the coronavirus and are currently waiting for their Jobseeker applications to be processed.

In the meantime, they have no income.

After contacting their rental agency to explain their situation, they were sent a hardship application form — which has been seen by Junkee — which asks for a monthly breakdown of their expenses, how much was in their superannuation account, and how much annual leave they had accrued at work.

In a lengthy email chain the agency explained they need to understand how much tenants can afford to put towards their rent, and also attached an article on landlords facing financial hardship.

In response, Joshua decided to flip the question back on them and ask for a similar breakdown of their landlord’s expenses.

“We’ve gone to (our rental agency) saying we have no income and they’ve come back and asked, ‘how much money are you spending on food.’ What world are they living in?” they said.

“They asked about groceries, utilities, telephone, entertainment expenses.

“Where is this going, are we spending too much on food? Are you going to deny someone because they have a Netflix subscription?”

The agent also advised Joshua that people should be accessing their superannuation to pay living expenses like rent, in line with new government policy.

“People being coerced into raiding retirements funds are going to miss out on potentially decade of compound interests, thousands of dollars,” Joshua said.

“Is the landlord raiding their retirement funds to pay their mortgage?

“We’re in a context where landlords think they have all the power and are in a position to take advantage of the situation … some are getting mortgage relief (from banks) with no obligation for them to pass that on to tenants.”

The government has introduced an eviction moratorium so renters are protected for the next six months, but there is still uncertainty about what will happen once that is over.

Joshua said after their experience they spoke to dozens of other tenants in similar situations — some were told they’d need to pay rent in arrears, while others were threatened with tribunals or eviction once the six month freeze was over.

The national cabinet is yet to outline any guidelines on what rights renters have if they cannot afford to pay rent due to coronavirus hardship.