Tasmania moratorium on evictions

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TASMANIA will ban landlords from evicting commercial and residential tenants experiencing hardship and waive land tax, Premier Peter Gutwein announced.

The government’s second stimulus in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Social and Economic Support Package will augment last week’s Support and Stimulus Package, taking the total support to combat to $985 million.

Tasmania will further assist the 38,000 small businesses and sole traders in the state by increasing the Small Business Interest Free Loan Scheme from $20 million to $50 million which is now available for businesses with turnovers less than $10 million, as well as provide a new $40 million Small Business Grants Program with $20 million set aside for an emergency grants program of $2500 cash payments.

For households, the government will cap electricity prices and freeze water bills for the next financial year, at an estimated combined cost of $20 million. This comes after utilities provider Aurora Energy announced it will not disconnect any residential or commercial customers during the emergency period.

The government will freeze payment of the Community Fire levy next financial year and will not increase rent for social housing tenants. At the same time it will also increase funding to the Private Rental Incentive Scheme by up to 75 houses to increase the pool of available houses.

“Just as we were the first state to shut our borders, we can lead the nation, beginning to return to normal again once we contain the virus,” Premier Gutwein told Parliament. “As always, our plan is in the best interests of Tasmania, and we will do what we think is best for Tasmania, not necessarily what is being done elsewhere,”

“These dark days will end; we will get through this. There is a brighter future ahead for all of us,” Gutwein said.

Importantly for commercial and residential tenants, the government agreed to emergency powers proposed by Greens MP Cassy O’Connor to ban evictions for 120 days with a further option of 90 days. The government will also freeze land tax for businesses.

The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has labelled the support package as “nation-leading”.

This comes after the New South Wales parliament passed an amendment drafted by Greens MP Jenny Leong, empowering the Minister for Housing Melinda Pavey to ban evictions.

The COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 also allows Minister Pavey to ban evictions for commercial tenants and freeze rents.