Over the last month, much has been made about the challenges the Australian rental market is facing. While it looks like some help for struggling tenants and landlords is on its way, there are still many who will be left short – including a large number of international assignees who will not be eligible for most of the announced government support. So, what do we need to do to keep our international appointments safe and sheltered throughout these trying times? I often marvel at the resilience of the Australian rental market. Despite dealing with significant restrictions, rapid changes in supply and demand, and an uncertain timeline for recovery, the industry continues to soldier on. In fact, in many ways, by forcing us to innovate and collaborate, this adversity has made us stronger. That being said, it’s impossible to ignore the damage that’s been done. Travel bans have all but stopped the short stay and holiday rental markets, forcing owners of these properties to look for longer term leases. This has led to an oversupply in some areas, which were already feeling the effects of weakening demand – a result of international students staying in their home country and people trying to save money by sharing or moving back to the family home. In addition to increasing vacancy rates, these fluctuations are having a direct impact on those that facilitate the rental market. Personally, I have seen a significant downtown in business, with many clients putting their search on hold. This has been particularly true for those relocating from interstate or overseas, who have noted that the added complication of travel has made them reconsider their move.
AUSTRALIAN RENTAL MARKET: SURVIVING THE SHORT-TERM
As we’ve heard many times over the last couple of months, now is the time for survival, not stimulus. While this statement has generally been made about the national economy, it’s also true for the rental market – there’s not much we can do to encourage demand at the moment but looking after the arrangements that are already in place is critical. We can do this by:
- Continuing to pay rent: Those that can still afford to must continue to pay their rent on time and in full. This may seem obvious, but there are reports of some tenants taking advantage of the current situation – this only exacerbates tensions between tenants and Property Managers / Landlords and can lead to eviction.
- Communicating with Property Managers / Landlords: Some landlords worry that an expat tenant could be a flight risk. With everything that’s going on at the moment, and the natural desire many international assignees have to return ‘home’, this worry worsens. Providing an update on individual / business circumstances – even for industries that haven’t really been impacted – can help allay these fears.
- Negotiating rent relief, if required: If a tenant’s income has been impacted so significantly that they are now unable to pay the full amount of their rent, they should email their Property Manager / Landlord to discuss the possibility of a reduction. Include as much detail/evidence as possible, along with the amount of rent they can afford per week. As most states have announced support packages that compel landlords to offer reductions (they get tax breaks if they do), and there is a moratorium on evictions for rent arrears caused by COVID-19, most property owners should be willing to negotiate.
- Staying connected: As they are often away from their main support networks and have fewer local social ties, expats are particularly susceptible to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Maintaining regular contact with them can help combat this and will allow early identification of any decline in mental health.
AUSTRALIAN RENTAL MARKET: THRIVING IN THE LONGER TERM
While times are tough right now, it won’t always be this way. It may be a few months until life returns to ‘normal’, but in the interim we can plan how we will make the best of our more open and mobile future. For international assignees, this time can be spent getting to know – and further embedding themselves within – their new neighbourhood. If they haven’t done so already, they can look up local businesses and landmarks online and plan some activities once restrictions have been lifted. They can also use their daily exercise time to familiarise themselves with the surrounding streets and parkland. Somewhat paradoxically, it’s also the perfect time to create and maintain social connections, with many community groups shifting online and people generally more open to keeping in contact. This makes it easier for expats to ‘find their tribe’ and feel settled in their new environment.
AUSTRALIAN RENTAL MARKET: WANT TO DISCUSS THIS FURTHER?
These are truly trying times and the only way we will get through is by working together. If you want to discuss your rental options, I’m here if you need to talk. Wendy
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