Geraldton rental evictions double as COVID ban lifted

Headshot of Lisa Favazzo
Lisa FavazzoGeraldton Guardian
Dean Alston cartoon. In Albany camping. An Albany resident is talking on the phone "Yair, Mate..... Real Estate is booming down here! I've got 20 families renting space in my back yard!"
Camera IconDean Alston cartoon. In Albany camping. An Albany resident is talking on the phone "Yair, Mate..... Real Estate is booming down here! I've got 20 families renting space in my back yard!" Credit: Dean Alston/The West Australian

Fifteen Geraldton landlords resorted to court action in April to kick their tenants out following the lifting of a COVID-19 ban on evictions — almost double the amount from the same time last year.

The moratorium on evictions and rent increases ended in late March, causing concern renters — especially lower-income and vulnerable people — would be left without a roof over their heads.

Regional Alliance West principal solicitor Alison Muller said court data did not tell the whole story.

She said renters in the private market were biting the bullet and moving out before lawyers got involved, especially in the face of rent increases beyond their means.

According to Ms Muller, the state of play is causing a rise in secondary homelessness levels, meaning people are moving in with friends and family, couch surfing or pitching tents in backyards.

It’s hard enough for an adult but when there are children involved, housing instability has a massive impact.

- Regional Alliance West principal solicitor Alison Muller

She said the situation was particularly distressing for parents and carers.

“It’s hard enough for an adult but when there are children involved, housing instability has a massive impact,” Ms Muller said.

She said it was “business as usual” for public housing tenants but she had noticed an increase in people homed by a community housing organisation — often geared towards a particular vulnerable cohort — who were requesting support.

“(Community housing groups) have made the decision to evict a number of tenants,” she said.

“They have nowhere else to go (and) they are not required to move until the court says so ... They are waiting it out.”

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Murchison Regional Aboriginal Corporation is a self-funded not-for-profit community housing operation with 110 proprieties in the Mid West.

Chief executive Mary Marshall said, like private landlords, the corporation was pursuing evictions that would have happened earlier if not for the COVID-19 moratorium.

She listed several reasons tenants were facing eviction, including non-payment of rent, moving away and allowing family members to take over their lease without approval, and high or ongoing property damage.

Ms Marshall said evidence of drug dealing and trafficking were behind some evictions.

“We are taking a hard stance on this,” she said.

“The impact of drug use on individuals and families is appalling.”

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