TRADERS forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic are facing soaring rental costs and are hopeful for their payments to freeze.
First National Real Estate Warrnambool director Christine Streere said about 30 worried tenants and landlords had contacted her as government-enforced business closures swept the city this week.
"We have a number of tenants with start-up businesses who will not have the cash reserves to cover the indirect costs of rent," she said.
But Ms Streere hopes governments and banks would freeze landlords' mortgage repayments, freeing the landlords to then relieve tenants.
"A freeze means we all just sit on it, nothing moves, and when everything comes back to normal they just start their monthly payments again, there's no back-pay to the bank," she said.
"In most instances our landlords want to do the right thing by the tenants.
"If they want to get a break on their commitment we should be able to work together. It just loosens the hold on everybody."
Restrictions on places where people gather this week forced Iron Armour Gym owner Erica Ahu to close the business, where rent is now her biggest cost.
"We have just bought the business in December, it is a bit worrying, especially because the rent in the CBD is quite high," Ms Ahu said.
"There will come a point if there's no money coming in, we won't be able to keep paying the rent."
But Ms Ahu was hopeful a freeze would also cover rental payments, and said in the meantime affected traders were left with "fear of the unknown".
Ludeman Real Estate director Mark Dwyer said tenants being unable to trade was the agency's "biggest issue at the moment".
"In some cases landlords are good and say don't worry about paying rent until thing turns around. But there are some who need the money," Mr Dwyer said.
Australia's big four banks have announced that loans can be "deferred" for between three and six months, but interest is still added to the loan for that time.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this week that he and the state and territory leaders were considering how to resolve rental stress.
"This is obviously a complicated issue because you've got a tenant, you've got a landlord, you've got creditors ... you need to solve for the entire chain that's there," Mr Morrison said.
"The states have the legislative authority when it comes to tenancies, both commercial and residential, and the commonwealth has other incentives and levers that it can pull."
A Victorian government spokeswoman said the national cabinet would consider the issue at their meeting on Friday.
"The government is confident that we will work together and find a way forward," she said.
The state government has deferred land tax for landowners with landholdings under $1 million, as part of a $1.7 billion "survival package" for businesses and workers.
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