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Trad's $400m safety net to halt residential, commercial evictions

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Commercial and retail tenants in Queensland will be offered rent relief, partly funded by the Palaszczuk Government forgoing land tax, while residential tenants have been given a bigger safety net in an effort to keep people in place throughout the pandemic.

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Under a $400 million package announced on Thursday afternoon, the government will offer all property owners a three-month rebate of land tax for 2019-20, followed by a three-month deferral of land tax in 2020-21 – provided it is passed on to tenants.

Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad said the land tax relief, available from April 14, was in addition to more than $3 billion in business support so far provided by the government in response to the economic crisis.

“So many people are doing it incredibly tough out in our economy,” Trad said, foreshadowing an unemployment rate as high as nine per cent.

“These are very, very troubling economic times.”

The land tax relief, also being offered in other states, was welcomed by Property Council Queensland executive director Chris Mountford, who said landlords would have a greater capacity to support tenants.

Housing and Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni said Queensland would also implement the National Cabinet decision to freeze evictions due to rent arrears, as of Sunday March 29.

“You cannot be evicted from a Queensland rental property if you are unable to pay your rent because of COVID-19,” de Brenni said on Thursday.

Landlords will also be prohibited from moving on tenants whose lease expires during the crisis, and required to offer an extension of at least six months. However, tenants will be able to voluntarily end a lease early, and with lesser penalties than would normally apply, after giving seven days’ notice.

Tenants will also be given more control over access to their premises but still be required to maintain the premises in accordance with the tenancy agreement.

Trad said tenants experiencing hardship and unable to access or waiting for other financial support may be eligible for rental grants of up to four weeks rent, or a maximum of $2,000, under expanded criteria.

While the government is foregoing land tax, and spending more to buffer the state’s economy – in addition to a $1.2 billion boost to the health system – the budget will also suffer from a reduction in GST and stamp duty revenue. Trad said she expected to borrow more to pay for the economic support measures.

Trad said there was “almost a complete economic lockdown” but the mining and agricultural sectors had been the most resilient.

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