Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Bayside Massive Rate Increase - Disgraceful

I am outraged at the Liberal and Independent councillors on Bayside Council who a couple of weeks ago voted to increase residential rates in the former Botany Bay Council area by up to 51 per cent from 1 July next year. The council, under the pretence of harmonisation of council rates across the amalgamated council area, determined a massive increase in rates to residents in my electorate. 

All eight Liberal and Independent councillors voted in favour of this plan, which will see rates increase on average by between 28 per cent and 51 per cent from 1 July 2021. All seven Labor councillors voted against it. 

The Liberals did this during a devastating pandemic and the worst recession since the Great Depression. When the airlines and universities—which support the employment of many of my constituents—are laying off thousands of workers, as are many other employers across my electorate, I will name those Liberal councillors who represent residents in my electorate. Mascot residents are being slugged by the vote of councillor Michael Nagi and Eastlakes residents are being slugged by the vote of councillor Paul Sedrak. 

Their vote for this increase is on the public record and they will be accountable for it. The Bayside Council amalgamation has been an abject failure. The amalgamation was forced upon the residents of the former City of Botany Bay, despite 90 per cent of residents voting against it at a plebiscite. 

Complaints of poor customer service and a reduction in service standards flood my office. Councillors and staff meet for hours in secret under the pretence of briefings, with no public scrutiny of the information conveyed to councillors. When the Minister for Local Government, warned the council that its committees were not permitted to meet in secret, the council abandoned its committee meetings. 

For weeks councillors were locked away with an unresponsive bureaucracy. They were away from pesky, prying, public eyes, being housetrained with various financial models, all designed to get them on board for a massive rate increase. Fortunately, the Labor councillors were not buying it. 

 The Liberal councillors who want to impose this huge increase on my constituents are the same Bayside Liberals who shot to infamy in 2018 when at a Liberal Party branch meeting they started brawling in the streets of Bayside. A number of attendees were charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and assaulting police in the execution of their duty. 

Not only did the Liberals give us a council that our community did not want, the same Liberals who just two years ago were brawling in the streets of the local government area are now voting to increase residents' rates by 51 per cent. No wonder the Premier does not want the Liberals endorsing candidates at the next local government elections. 

If others are like the brawlers from Bayside, I do not blame her. I am loath to blame the legislation at this point. Other amalgamated councils seem to have managed the process. The good, conservative burghers who govern the northern beaches were able to manage a rate harmonisation with the merger of three councils without these extreme increases. 

I am also conscious of the Auditor‑General's report to Parliament and the briefings I received in relation to the council's financial management and procedures, including rates. Voting to increase taxes during a pandemic and a recession at a time of crisis and massive unemployment is outrageous. 

The councillor who represents Mascot in my electorate, Councillor Michael Nagi, to justify his vote told the council, "It's less than a dollar a week", "What does it cost, a cup of coffee?" Councillor Barlow said, "I am just saying it's $4 a week". Those councillors should look Qantas workers in the eye and tell them the same thing. 

I am told that councillors led by councillor Christina Curry and Scott Morrissey have lodged a rescission motion that will be considered next month. That gives the opportunity for those Liberal councillors to reconsider the significance of what they wish to impose on my community. Councillor Michael Nagi and Councillor Paul Sedrak can utilise the time and do something really novel: consult with the people of Mascot and Eastlakes, an area that they do not live in or ever visit. They can look them in the eye and say to these struggling people of my electorate, "Your massive increase is only the price of a cup of coffee."

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Vale George Lundy

Our community has lost one of the most outstanding human being I have had the honour to meet, and it was a privilege to...

Posted by Ron Hoenig MP on Saturday, May 16, 2020

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Advice for landlords responding to rent reduction requests

When should this letter be used?

·       All landlords must be prepared to negotiate rent payments with tenants who are impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This means where:
o   One or more rent-paying members of a household have lost or reduced income due to COVID-19 business closures or stand-downs; or
o   One or more rent-paying members of a household have had to stop working or reduce work hours due to illness with COVID-19 or due to COVID-19 carer responsibilities for household or family members; and
o   The matters above result in a reduction in the household income inclusive of any government assistance of 25% or more.  
·        Tenants can formally request a rent review on the basis that they are affected by COVID-19.
·        Tenants who have lost income due to COVID 19 should make a genuine attempt to negotiate with the landlord to reduce rent to whatever level they can afford.   Landlords should engage meaningfully and in good faith.
·        A landlord will only be able to give a termination notice or apply for an eviction after the interim 60-day stop, if they have tried to negotiate a rent reduction with the tenant in good faith and if seeking a termination is fair and reasonable in the circumstances of the specific case.
·        You can use the attached template letter to respond to a tenant’s initial request to waive or reduce rent payments.
·        Landlords are entitled to request basic supporting documents from the tenant to support the claim that a tenant is impacted by COVID-19, for example:
o    proof of job termination/stand-down or loss of work hours
o    proof of Government income support
o    proof of prior tenant income.
·        Landlords are encouraged to approach their financial institutions to seek a mortgage freeze or reduced repayments as part of the negotiation discussions (see more information below).
·        Make sure you keep evidence documenting your financial arrangements, and communication you’ve had with your lender to waive or reduce your repayments.
·        All agreements with the tenant should be in writing, making a note of whether the arrears will be waived or repaid once the tenant resumes their normal employment.

What should the letter to your tenant include?

Your financial situation
We encourage you to be open and honest about your financial situation with your tenant, including whether you rely on the rental income to cover mortgage repayments or other expenses. 
Your conversations with your lender
Landlords are encouraged to approach their financial institutions to seek a mortgage freeze or reduced repayments. In your response to your tenant, outline the result of conversations you’ve had with your lender about waiving or reducing your own mortgage repayments.
Rent payment that you would be able to accept
A tenant who is COVID-19 impacted but also receives work income and Commonwealth support is expected to continue to make a reasonable contribution to rent in line with what they can reasonably afford. If you are able to accept a reduced or waived rent payment for a temporary period until your tenant resumes normal employment arrangements, including through repayment deferrals genuinely sought from your bank or through other means, clearly outline the revised offer in your response, including reasons.
Clarify rent waived or propose a post-COVID-19 repayment plan
Clarify whether the rent payment loss (arrears) will be waived or repaid under a repayment plan once the COVID-19 emergency is over or the tenant resumes employment.
  
Template letter

Your Name
Your Address

Date
Tenant Name
Their Address

Response to request to negotiate rent payments due to COVID-19

Dear [Mr/Mrs/Ms Tenant’s name]
Thank you for contacting me about your [weekly/fortnightly/monthly] rent payments for [property address].

I understand your financial circumstances have changed due to COVID-19, resulting in an impact on your income of 25% or more. I would therefore like to discuss your request to reduce your rent repayments to [$xxx] per [week/month/fortnight] until your normal employment resumes.

[Please provide documentation to support your claim that your household income has reduced due to COVID-19, and provide evidence of any Government income support you may be receiving. Documents could include proof of job termination/ stand-down, proof of Government income support, proof of prior income.]

I propose [outline your proposal i.e. acceptance of their suggested reduced or waived rent payments, or another solution] for a period of [insert period, minimum of six weeks].

[If rent payments can be reduced or waived, please clarify whether the payments will be waived or subject to repayment in the future.]

I look forward to your response.

Kind Regards,
Your Name and Signature
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address


Example situation
Ms Smith’s tenant has had his salary reduced by 25% as a result of business closures following the COVID-19 public health orders. Ms Smith’s tenant has lived in the property for a number of years, and has suggested a rent reduction of 25% per week until his normal employment resumes.
Ms Smith is retired but has a number of properties from which she earns her income. She is therefore in a position where she can accept a temporary reduction in rent payments until her tenant’s usual employment resumes.
Example letter
Ms Smith
111 First St, Woolgoolga NSW

Monday, 6 April 2020

Mr Bird
222 Muffin Lane, Woolgoolga NSW

Response to your request to negotiate rent payments due to COVID-19

Dear Mr Bird
Thank you for contacting me about your weekly rent payments for 222 Muffin Lane.

I understand your financial circumstances have changed due to COVID-19 and would therefore like to discuss your request to reduce your rent repayments by 25% per week until your normal employment resumes.

Please provide documentation to support your claim that your household income has reduced due to COVID-19, and evidence of any Government support you may be receiving. Documents could be proof of lost employment / stand-down / loss of work hours or reasons for not being able to work due to COVID-19 illness, proof of Government income support, and proof of prior income.

Subject to you providing the above documentation, I am able to accept your suggested reduction in rent payments for an initial period of six weeks. Your new weekly rent payment will therefore be $250. You will not be required to repay the 25% reduction once your normal rent payments resume.

Please update me in six weeks on your employment and financial situation, and in the meantime please let me know should you have any queries.

Kind Regards,
Ms Smith
smith@email.com.au
0444 555 666
Advice for landlords approaching their financial institution for mortgage repayment waiver or reduction

When should this letter be used?

·       As detailed above, all landlords must be prepared to negotiate rent payments with tenants experiencing financial hardship due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
·       Landlords are encouraged to approach their financial institutions to seek a mortgage freeze or reduced repayments as part of the negotiation discussions with their tenant/s.

What should the letter include?
Your financial situation
You should be open and honest about your financial status with your financial institution. If you rely on the income from your rental property to pay for the mortgage in part or full, and are negotiating with your tenant about rent payment, this should be outlined and evidenced in your request.
Mortgage waiver or reduced payment you are seeking
A tenant who is unable to meet their rental obligations due to COVID-19 but also receives work income and Commonwealth support is expected to continue to make a reasonable contribution to the rent. Depending on the rental amount your tenant has put forward and your other financial circumstances, you should detail the mortgage amount you are able to pay until you or your tenant resumes normal employment arrangements.
Clarify rent waived or propose a post-COVID-19 repayment plan
Clarify whether your rental payment losses (arrears) will be waived or repaid under a repayment plan with your tenant once the COVID-19 emergency is over or the tenant resumes employment.

  
Template letter

Your Name
Your Address

Date
Financial institution name
Their Address

Request to negotiate mortgage payment waiver or reduction due to COVID-19

Dear [Sir/Madam]
[I am/We are] contacting you about my/our [weekly/fortnightly/monthly] mortgage repayments for [property address].

[My/Our] financial circumstances have changed significantly due to COVID-19 because of [include details of lost employment, reduced work hours, and/or tenant request for rental reduction or waiver, and reasons for income reduction]. My/Our household income per week is now [outline what your income is and include any Government payments received].

Please find attached documentation outlining [my/our] previous and current financial situation.

Because of this, [I/we] would like to discuss the possibility of reducing or waiving our mortgage repayments to [$xxx] for the next [month/fortnight].

[We/I] look forward to discussing this matter further with you.

Kind Regards,
Your Name and Signature
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address

  
Example situation
Ms Smith’s tenant has had his salary reduced by 25% as a result of business closures following the COVID-19 public health orders. Ms Smith’s tenant has lived in the property for a number of years, and has suggested a rent reduction of 25% per week until his normal employment resumes.
Ms Smith has had her hospitality business income reduced by 50% as a result of the COVID-19 public health orders and relies on the rental income she receives to repay the mortgage on her property. She therefore approaches her financial institution to request a mortgage repayment reduction or waiver.

Example letter
Ms Smith
111 First St, Woolgoolga NSW

Monday, 6 April 2020

Financial Institution A
Financial Institution Street, Sydney, NSW

Request to negotiate mortgage repayment waiver or reduction due to COVID-19

Dear Sir/Madam
I am contacting you about my fortnightly mortgage repayments for 222 Muffin Lane, Woolgoolga NSW.

My financial circumstances have changed significantly due to COVID-19 because my hospitality business income has reduced by 50%. My tenant is now also requesting a rent reduction of 25% a week due to the impact of COVID-19 on their financial circumstances.  My household income per week is now $XX.

Please find attached documentation outlining my previous and current financial situation.

Because of this, I would like to discuss the possibility of waiving my mortgage repayments or reducing it to $500 for the next month.

I look forward to discussing this matter further with you.

Kind Regards,
Ms Smith
smith@email.com.au
0444 555 666

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Advice for tenants approaching landlords to request rent reduction

What should this letter be used for?

·       Coronavirus (COVID-19) has already had a significant impact on the economy, meaning some tenants are having difficulty keeping up with rent payments. The NSW Government is introducing measures to help landlords and tenants work together.
·       The support package includes a six-month moratorium on landlords issuing termination notices or making applications for forced evictions due to rent arrears for tenants who are financially impacted by COVID-19 and unless landlords and tenants try to negotiate rental reductions in good-faith. If you are a tenant who is impacted by COVID-19, you may be eligible for this new process.
·       You need to be able to demonstrate that you are impacted by COVID-19, meaning that:
o   One or more rent-paying members of a household have lost or reduced income due to COVID-19; or
o   One or more rent-paying members of a household have had to stop working or reduce work hours due to illness with COVID-19 or due to caring for household or family members ill with COVID-19; and  
o   The matters above result in a reduction in the household income inclusive of any government assistance, of 25% or more.    
·        A tenant who is impacted by COVID-19 under the above criteria can request a rent review. If a tenant who is impacted by COVID-19 does not pay their full rent but does not attempt to negotiate a rent reduction may not be protected from eviction.
·        A landlord will only be able to give a termination notice or apply for an eviction after the interim 60-day stop, if they have tried to negotiate a rent reduction with the tenant in good faith and seeking a termination is fair and reasonable in the circumstances of the specific case.
·       If you are tenant impacted by COVID-19 you can use this sample letter to advise your landlord that your circumstances have changed and that you’d like to start a rent payment discussion.
·       Make sure you have evidence documenting the current and previous financial arrangements for your household, including any income support received.


What should the letter include?

Personal information and contact details
Start your letter with your name, contact information, the address of the property you are currently renting from the landlord and your current rent.
Your original household income
Please outline your household income before your change in circumstances due to COVID-19. For example, the income you were earning per week (including hours per week if you were doing casual or contract work). Please also include any income support received.
Please attach supporting documents e.g. payslips, work agreement.
Your change in circumstances due to COVID-19 and how this has impacted on your household income
Please outline how this household income has changed due to COVID-19. For example, this may be because you (or your partner or other household tenants) lost your employment or have a reduction in hours which has led to a substantial loss in household income. You will need to meet each of the criteria in the above COVID-19 impact test.
Don’t forget to explain the reasons for your household income reduction, for example, if you work at a public place banned under the COVID-19 Public Health Order such as a gallery, cinema, gymnasium or beauty salon. Include the date that your situation changed.
Please attach supporting documents e.g. employment termination notice, communication from employer.
Any income support you receive
Please outline any support you or your partner, or other household members receive or intend to apply for from the government, such as the Youth Allowance, JobSeeker Payment, JobKeeper Payment or Parenting Payment.  
Please attach supporting documents e.g. statement from Commonwealth Government department.
Rent payment that you would be able to meet under your new household income
Please outline the rent repayments that you believe you would be able to meet. For example, if you are still in full time employment but your partner’s hours have been reduced by 50%, you might request a 25% reduction in rent payments. 

Template letter

Your Name
Your Address

Date
Name of Landlord Or Agent
Their Address as Printed on lease or tenancy documents

Request to negotiate rent payments due to COVID-19

Dear [Mr/Mrs/Ms Landlord’s name]

[My/Our] financial circumstances have changed significantly due to COVID-19 because of [reasons for income reduction]. My/Our household income per week was originally [outline your household’s original work income / work hours, include any Government payments received]. Following [reasons for household income reduction], my work income is now [outline what your household’s income is and include any Government payments received]. This change happened on [date of change in circumstances due to COVID-19].

Please find attached documentation outlining [my/our] previous and current household income.

Because of this, [I/we] would like to discuss the possibility of reducing rent payments to [$xxx] for the next [month/fortnight].

[We/I] appreciate that you may also be experiencing financial hardship at this time and look forward to discussing this matter further with you.

Kind Regards,
Your Name and Signature
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address


Scenario
Mr Stack works as a fitness instructor at a gymnasium in Tamworth. Due to the temporary closure of gymnasiums across the country due to the public health orders, Mr Stack’s usual hours of 30 per week have reduced to 10 hours of virtual classes per week.
Mr Stack’s income has significantly reduced to 30% of his former salary. He has therefore chosen to approach his landlord to see whether a rent reduction would be possible until he can return to his normal hours.
Example letter

Mr Stack
123 Second Lane, Tamworth NSW

Thursday 2 April, 2020

Ms Jones
345 Owners Close, Tamworth NSW

Request to negotiate rent payments due to COVID-19

Dear Ms Jones,
I am contacting you about my weekly rent payments for 123 Second Lane in Tamworth.

My financial circumstances have changed significantly because of COVID-19 due to the Government advice to close all gymnasiums. I worked as a fitness instructor and recently lost my employment. My original income was $800 per week for 30 hours per week. I am now receiving $450 per week through the JobSeeker allowance. My overall income has reduced by $350 per week.  

Because of this, I would like to discuss the possibility of reducing my weekly rent payments by $250 per week for the next two months. 

Please find attached proof of reduced hours from my employer, the fortnightly JobSeeker allowance and proof or prior income upon signing the lease.

I appreciate that you may also be experiencing financial hardship at this time and look forward to discussing this matter further with you.

Kind Regards,
Mr Stack

0412 345 678

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