Tenants' advocates are preparing for a potential wave of renters in financial distress if the NSW moratorium on evictions expires on October 16.
The VERTO South West Tenants' Advice Service has already seen an influx of 147 renters from Wagga and the Riverina seeking help since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.
VERTO community services manager Pamela Hunter said more than half of their clients were new and, of those, 65 per cent were from the Wagga region.
"Since COVID-19 hit, 55 per cent of people coming to us have never come to us before ... [there is] a really high proportion of people in the Wagga region that are requiring our service," Ms Hunter said.
The NSW government introduced measures in April to support renters in households which have lost at least 25 per cent of their income during the pandemic, including the federal government's six-month moratorium on evictions.
Landlords must negotiate a rental reduction "in good faith" with affected tenants, who will then accrue any unpaid rent as arrears.
However, a survey of almost 1000 renters from across Australia conducted from May to June by the tenants' advocacy group Better Renting found that less than one in ten renters who lost income received a satisfactory rent reduction.
Sixty-three per cent of tenants surveyed reported losing income due to the coronavirus crisis, but only half asked their landlords for a rent reduction. The survey also found that renters were more likely to be affected by the economic downturn.
Ms Hunter said landlords she had encountered were largely trying to do the right thing by their tenants.
"What we are seeing is ... that there's a delay from landlords to engage with us," she said. "If a tenant were to lose their job and they were unable to pay their rent then having a landlord delaying the process just puts more stress on things."
Ms Hunter said tenants and landlords who found themselves at an impasse in negotiations would go to Fair Trading.
"A landlord and a tenant can choose to, say, defer the rent ... or they could reduce the rent. So that sort of negotiation would take place," she said.
She said many tenants will have accrued a significant debt when and if the moratorium is lifted in October as scheduled.
People receiving the federal government's JobSeeker or JobKeeper payments will have their fortnightly rate cut by $300 after September.
"We may have an economy that is not employing some people, so a really high unemployment rate," Ms Hunter said. "There's the potential for vulnerable people to be facing eviction notices."