Some real estate agents are bullying tenants by demanding they pay rent in advance and demanding they draw down on their retirement savings to pay rent.
While most agents are behaving professionally, Labor has received reports of unacceptable behaviour and calls on the industry to show more care for tenants in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In one case a tenant who was self-isolating in her rented home and waiting for her COVID-19 test to come back, was told by a real estate agent to “go for a walk” while a property inspection was conducted.
This is irresponsible.
The Federal Government has already heeded Labor’s suggestion for a moratorium on evictions for tenants under financial stress as a result of the coronavirus and the banking industry has indicated its willingness to work with landlords whose tenants are struggling to pay the rent.
The real estate industry must ensure all agents join in the national spirit of working together to get our nation through the COVID crisis.
Housing is now the front line of health care in Australia. The more people who stay home, the fewer people will die.
Over the last week it has become clear that many tenants and landlords are worried and anxious and want more clarity on their rights.
Real estate agents also all need to know the rules and play by them.
Hopefully the Federal Government will provide more detail today after it meets state governments to discuss rental accommodation.
Labor is particularly concerned about complaints our MPs have received about agents telling people to draw down on their superannuation to pay their rent.
Real estate agents should not be doing this. They are not qualified and licensed financial advisers.
This week the Shadow Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones, wrote to ASIC about the issue.
Today, ASIC has published on its website a letter to the Real Estate Institute, warning that these actions may constitute a breach of the Corporations Act, and that they will not hesitate to act swiftly to protect vulnerable consumers.
We are all in this crisis together. Tenants and landlords are both struggling. People are stressed and worrying.
And we need real estate agents to help reduce the pressure, not add to it.
Background information can be found here.
FRIDAY, 3 APRIL 2020