Land tax applies to investment and commercial properties, holiday homes and vacant land but not a person’s home, and is based on a sliding scale depending on property values.
Premier Daniel Andrews said renters experiencing tough times and landlords needed to engage in mediation so they could both get through the pandemic.
But he said many tenants would still be left in financial stress even if they could reach “a good faith agreement”, if their rent exceeded 30 per cent of their income.
Mr Andrews said residential tenants who earned less than $100,000 and who had less than $5000 in savings would be eligible for rent assistance from the $80 million fund. The government expects up to 30,000 residential tenants to apply for support from the fund.
“Partnership at a time of genuine hardship is how we will all get to the other side of this virus,” Mr Andrews said on Wednesday morning. “It’s how people will have the housing security that they need. And it’s how we will support the most vulnerable.”
The payments of up to $2000 for rent will be paid directly to landlords. While the government wants renters and landlords to work together, those that can’t reach an agreement will now be able to go to a beefed up dispute resolution service already run by Consumer Affairs Victoria. This will be done “to ensure you can reach a fair agreement”, Consumer Affairs website says.
Treasurer Tim Pallas said a renter who couldn’t reach an agreement with their landlord could use this mediation process, which he sought to create “a fair sharing, essentially, of the reduction in land tax”.
“But ultimately we’ve got to be reasonable with each other,” Mr Pallas said. “If we can’t as a community look after each other then we’ll be doing a disservice [to] each other.”
Housing and social support groups welcomed the package, which they said would help vulnerable renters stay in their homes.
Victorian Council of Social Services chief executive Emma King said the new measures would give renters “strong and necessary protections”.
The Council to Homeless Persons also said the new laws were important, with chief executive Jenny Smith saying it was good the package included dispute resolution measures.
“While some landlords have been flexible at this time, there have also been far too many examples of poor behaviour,” she said.
Tenants Victoria chief executive Jennifer Beveridge said the government had recognised that renters were “doing it very tough” during the pandemic.
“The land tax relief on offer will provide a good incentive for landlords to enter into mediation with renters, and the moratorium on evictions and rent increases is urgently needed,” she said.
Benjamin is a state political reporter
Clay Lucas is a senior reporter for The Age. Clay has worked at The Age since 2005, covering urban affairs, transport, state politics, local government and workplace relations for The Age and Sunday Age.