Jobless tenants pressured to use super for rent, risking disastrous outcomes

Disturbing evidence has emerged of real estate agents pressuring jobless tenants to access their retirement savings before considering rental reductions due to COVID-19.

Queensland Unions received a copy of a mass email this week clearly outlining an agency’s insistence that jobless tenants move to access their superannuation before starting any talks over rent.

Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Michael Clifford said these demands would increase hardship that many out of work Queenslanders are already facing from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Accessing your superannuation would create immense risks for those people who then fall below that super fund’s threshold limit for life insurance and income protection insurance,” he said.

Vulnerable tenants risk super insurance safety net if they dip into their retirement savings.

“These agents are forcing tenants into a dangerous choice between a temporary rent payback arrangement or a family tragedy in the event of an accident,” he said.

He called on government to protect tenants from financial bullying.

“The federal and state government needs to take action to stop this practice, which we believe is also happening interstate.

“It’s a blatant cash grab from our community’s most vulnerable,” he said.

The mass email to tenants from a Brisbane real estate agency unreservedly demands evidence of application for $10,000 super cash as a “precursor to any discussion … about rental reductions”.

“Accessing super funds is an option for some but it should not be mandatory, particularly given the current state of the share market,” said Mr Clifford.

Modelling quoted by Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees indicates that people aged under 30 taking $20,000 out of their super over the coming months could be $100,000 worse off by the time they retire.

“If you take your cash out now you may be locking in a six-figure loss at the other end of your working life,” he said.

“Even worse, you may not be insured in the event of an accident and really put yourself behind the financial eight-ball when you are needed most.

“Landlords, commercial and residential, have been called upon by government to recognise the extraordinary circumstances and do the right thing by tenants. Forcing people into raiding their retirement savings before providing rental relief is not acting within the spirit of that request.”

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