In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian states and territories implemented eviction moratoriums and measures to vary rent obligations – a remarkable response for jurisdictions that have, for decades, regulated residential landlord-tenant relations on a model of mild consumer protection, market rents and ready termination. This article examines the COVID-19 emergency measures and their implications for tenants’ housing rights, and landlords’ property rights. After reviewing the Australian rental housing system’s structure and legislative framework, the article examines in detail the COVID-19 emergency measures regarding evictions and rents in each state and territory. These vary in form and content, mostly on a pattern of additional protection from eviction for a core ‘hardship’ group, and variation of rents by individual negotiation. The article considers problems in the emergency measures, and points on which enduring reforms may be built, as well as critically appraising the argument that property rights protections limit the scope for reform.
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