RENT

rent-dp.png

What do the changes mean?

  • Some States and Territories  put in place measures to protect tenants from eviction who have
    been affected financially by COVID-19

  • These measures have ended in Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT. 

  • They will end at the end of March 2021 in NSW, Vic and Western Australia.

  • South Australia has extended the provisions until May 31 2021.

  • The NT did not introduce any extra measures to protect tenants

  • NSW  plans to introduce a 6-month transition period out of their temporary rental eviction moratorium, which expires 26 March 2021.
     

Page last updated on 9/3/2021

State and Territory residential tenancy relief

Australian Capital Territory


Moratorium on evictions

There was a moratorium in place on evictions for non-payment of rent for COVID-19 impacted tenants from 22 April to 22 October 2020. The moratorium protects tenants who are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or where a member of the household became eligible for JobSeeker or JobKeeper on or after 20 March 2020.

There is a transition or grace period from 23 October 2020 to 30 April 2021 which will prevent COVID-19 impacted tenants from being evicted on the basis of arrears that accrued before or during the moratorium on the condition that they pay rent as it falls due during the transition period.

COVID-19 impacted tenants still have the following protections until 30 April 2021:

  • the ability to negotiate reduced rent.

  • a ban on negative listings on tenancy databases

  • the ability to terminate fixed term tenancy agreements early without penalty

  • all tenants on pre 6 April 2020 fixed term tenancies to pay just 2 weeks rent in advance (note: new fixed term tenancies now have this protection).

The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal will be required to consider making a payment order rather than ordering an eviction for tenants that have been impacted by COVID-19 after 22 October 2020 and until 30 April 2021.

Rent relief

Rent relief has now ended.

See this ACT Justice page for more information. Updated 17/02/2021 Resources:
Tenancy Advice Service ACT




New South Wales


The NSW Government plans to introduce a six-month transition out of the temporary COVID-19 rental eviction moratorium, which expires on March 26, 2021. A six month transition period means COVID-19 impacted tenants who accrued rent arrears between April 2020 to March 2021 will not be subject to the standard tenancy eviction rules.

  • Tenants and landlords will be assisted to negotiate repayment plans for arrears owing from the moratorium period.
  • Landlords will only be able to evict these tenants for COVID arrears if they have first attempted in good faith to negotiate a repayment plan. It also has to be fair and reasonable to evict.
  • COVID-19 impacted tenants will be protected from being listed on tenancy databases for arrears accrued during the moratorium period.
  • Tenants and landlords will continue to be able to apply to NCAT to terminate tenancy agreements on the basis of hardship.
  • Termination proceedings already started under the existing moratorium will continue under the existing rules.
The information below is still accurate and we’ll update you further closer to March 27.

The NSW Government introduced new measures to restrict when landlords can evict tenants due to rental arrears as a result of COVID-19. These restrictions were originally due to end on 15 October 2020. They have now been extended until 26 March 2021 .

Along with the restrictions on evictions for rental arrears, the Government has also extended the notice periods for certain other lease termination reasons to 90 days which include fixed term agreements, a periodic agreement and any tenancy for a non-payment breach.

The support package is for tenants who can prove they have been affected by COVID-19. If they haven’t been affected, tenants are expected to continue paying rent under their existing tenancy agreement in full.

The tenant is considered to be affected by COVID-19 when one or more members of the household:

  • Have lost their employment, income or work hours due to COVID-19 business closures or stand-downs; or
  • Have had to stop working or substantially reduce work hours due to illness with COVID-19 or to care for a household or family member with COVID-19; and
  • This resulted in a reduction in the weekly household income (including government assistance) of at least 25 per cent.

There are two significant changes:

  1. A 60-day stop on landlords issuing termination notices or applying for eviction orders at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal due to rental arrears. This moratorium started on 15 April 2020 and will end on 26 March 2021.
  2. After the 60-day interim stop, there is a six-month moratorium on landlords making applications for evictions due to rental arrears. The landlord can only apply for eviction where they can show the following:
  • They tried to negotate rent reductions in good faith; and
  • The landlord and tenant tried to mediate any dispute through the NSW Fair Trading dispute resolution process; and
  • Where landlords try to negotiate rent reductions in good faith; and
  • It would be fair and reasonable in the circumstances to terminate the tenancy.
3. There are limits on the amount of break costs that can be charged for the early termination of a fixed term lease.

Check the flow chart: Termination of tenancy during COVID-19: Rent arrears or charges.

For more information go to NSW Fair Trading site.

Rent Choice Assist Trial provides time limited rent support to low income households who have suffered a significant loss of income. The trial is only in Blacktown, Campbelltown, Hurstville or Newcastle/Lake Macquarie areas. Further details are here.

updated 17 February 2021

Resources:

NSW Fair Trading: Six month moratorium on residential tenancy evictions during COVID-19.

Tenants’ Union NSW, NSW Government Communities and Justice Rent Choice Assist fact sheet




Northern Territory


The NT government has not announced specific changes or legislation to protect tenants at this stage.

Resources:

NT Government: Business Recovery

Darwin Community Legal Service Tenants Advice Service

Darwin CLS Coronavirus and tenancy: Fact Sheet




Queensland


The eviction moratorium, which protected tenants or residents suffering excessive hardship because of the COVID-19 emergency, ended on 30 September 2020.

From 30 September 2020, if tenants or residents fail to pay rent they may be in breach of their agreement.

There are protections that apply until 30 April 2021:

  • provisions allowing tenants experiencing domestic and family violence to end their tenancies quickly

  • protections for tenants against being listed in a tenancy database for rent arrears caused by COVID-19 impacts

  • limits on reletting costs for eligible tenants who end their fixed term tenancies early

  • short term tenancy statement extensions for moveable dwellings

  • entry restrictions and requirements to support COVID-19 social distancing measures

  • relaxed repair and maintenance obligations.

Details of the protections that ended 29 September 2020

  • the six-month eviction moratorium for COVID-19 rent arrears

  • fixed term agreement extensions for COVID-19 impacted tenants

  • ending agreement provisions that prevent property owners ending tenancies with COVID-19 impacted tenants without grounds and provide additional grounds for parties to end tenancies (owner occupation and sale of premises which require vacant possession)

  • adjusted rent and bond processes that support parties to negotiate arrangements to manage COVID-19 impacts on their tenancies

  • mandatory conciliation of COVID-19 related tenancy disputes through the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA).

The COVID-19 Rental Grant is now closed.

Updated 17/02/2021

Resources:

COVID-19 Tenancy Update

Queensland Government: The Residential Rental Hub

Qstars

Tenants Queensland




South Australia


State Parliament has extended the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act.

This means restrictions on rent increases and evictions involving financial hardship due to COVID-19 for residential tenancies, residential parks and supported residential facilities, have been extended until May 31 2021.

The Act will be extended until May 31 2021, or 28 days after the state coordinator chooses to end the relevant emergency declaration, whichever comes first.

Tenants who have been impacted by the pandemic but still have the capacity should continue to pay their rent.

The new measures:

  • Introduce a short-term moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent due to financial hardship as a result of COVID-19

  • Prevent increases in rent

  • Allow landlords to use technology (for example, Facetime, time-stamped photos) to do routine inspections where possible, unless there are exceptional circumstances and sufficient safety measures in place for an inspection in person.

  • Extend the tenant’s ability to arrange to have repairs carried out by agreement with the landlord

  • Provide a general protection for tenants who breach their agreement as a result of complying with a direction under law relating to COVID-19.

Tenants are encouraged to work with their landlord to reach agreement. When an agreement cannot be reached, the matter may need to go before the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. ACAT). SACAT will continue to be able to consider undue hardship and tenancy.

Updated 17/02/2021

Resources:

SA Media Release 2/2/2021

SA Government Consumer and Business Services: Rental advice due to COVID-19

South Australian Tenants’ Information and Advisory Service




Tasmania


Some of the changes to the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 including changes to rental evictions, rental increases, and general repairs and maintenance expired on 31 January 2021.

See the Consumer, Building and Occupational Services (CBOS) website for more information.

Covid-19 Rent Relief payment is a one-off payment up to $2000 paid to landlords or their agents who have entered into a temporary rent reduction agreement to keep tenants securely housed. Tenants and landlords can apply for a first, second, third or fourth support payment if eligible. Additional support is available between 1 February 2021 and 31 March 2021. For more informaiton go to CBOS website. The Support Funds are available until 31 March 2021. updated 12/02/2021

Resources:

Tasmanian Government Consumer Building and Occupational Services: Changes to residential tenancies in Tasmania during emergency period (COVID-19).

Tenants’ Union of Tasmania. www.communities.tas.gov.au Rent Relief payment fact sheet.




Victoria


The Victorian Government has put in place a moratorium on evictions, rent relief for eligible tenants, suspension of rental increases, and a continued dispute resolution process. The moratorium also made changes to how a tenant or landlord may end a tenancy during the moratorium period. The moratorium has been in place since 29 March 2020. It was due to end on 26 September 2020 but the Government recently announced it has been extended until 28 March 2021. Residential tenants and landlords who struggle to reach agreement over rent reductions have access to the dispute resolution service run by Consumer Affairs Victoria for residential tenancies. The Victorian Small Business Commission offers a similar service for commercial tenancies. Residential and commercial tenants and landlords can also take advantage of more support, including further land tax reductions and more grant funding. See here for more details.

The details that were announced in March 2020 (which will expire on 28 March 2021) are:

  • The landlord cannot evict tenants except if the tenant damages the property, uses it for criminal activity, serious violence occurs or the tenant is able to pay rent but refuses to do so.

  • If the tenant is unable to pay the rent, the tenant may be able to negotiate a temporary rent reduction with the landlord.

  • Notices to vacate cannot be served after 29 March 2020.

  • There is now a new process for negotiating a reduced rental agreement.

  • Tenants may be able to access a Rent Relief Grant . The grant will be paid directly to the landlord. When first introduced this grant was up to $2,000. As of 20th August, the maximum grant increased to $3,000. New recipients able to apply for the full amount, with up to $1,000 extra available for previous recipients.

  • Rental increases are also banned.

In addition, as of 20 August 2021:

  • Commercial landlords are required to provide rent relief in proportion with the fall in turnover being experienced by eligible tenants.

  • The Victorian Small Business Commission has greater capacity to make an order on rent relief if a landlord refuses to respond to rent relief requests.

  • Residential and commercial landlords may also be eligible for an increased land tax discount – now up to 50 per cent – doubled from the earlier 25 per cent.

Updated 17/02/2021

Resources:

Vic moratorium extended news alert.

Consumer Affairs Victoria: Coronavirus (COVID-19) and your rights

Tenants Victoria

Victorian Government: Negotiate a rent reduction

Victorian Small Business Commission




Western Australia


The Government has extended the moratorium on rent increases and other provisions until March 28, 2021.

Under the Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Response) Bill 2020:

  • a moratorium on evictions beginning 30 March 2020. The moratorium can be reduced or extended. Leases can still be terminated if the tenant causes damage, posing a threat to the landlord or neighbours, refusing to make a rent payment agreement or if they abandon the property.
  • encouraging tenants and landlords to negotiate a revised rental agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, they are required to participate in a mandatory conciliation facilitated by the Commission for Consumer Protection.
  • a prohibition on rent increases during the emergency period
  • that any fixed term tenancy agreement due to expire during the emergency period will continue as a periodic agreement
  • relieving lessors of the obligation to conduct ordinary repairs if the reason they cannot do so is COVID-19 related financial hardship or a lawful restriction on movement
  • enabling a tenant to end a fixed term tenancy prior to its end date without incurring break lease fees (tenants will still be liable for damage and rent arrears).

Tenants may be eligible for rent relief payments of up to $2000 in the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme. Eligibility is for tenants in financial hardship, which means they:

  • have lost their job after 20 March 2020
  • have applied for Centrelink income support
  • have less than $10,000 in household savings
  • are currently paying rent of at least 25 per cent of the total after tax household income

For renters and landlords with COVID-19 tenancy issues, the Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service will continue offering dispute resolution, finding fair and workable solutions to renting problems.

The rent relief grant will remain open until 28 June 2021

Updated 17/02/2021

Resources:

Laws extended for 6 months

WA Government: Residential tenancies – COVID-19 response

WA Government: Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme

WA Government: Laws to provide support for commercial and residential tenants and landlords.

WA Government: COVID-19 coronavirus Consumer Protection FAQ

Tenancy WA





What do you do differently?

Page last updated on 01/06/2020

  • Tenants should be encouraged to negotiate with their landlord
    for a rent reduction, if needed.

  • There will be a tension between what the client can afford in rent and what reduction the landlord may be able to afford (or thinks is reasonable). 

  • Deferrals should still be avoided because this just creates a debt. We do not know when the pandemic will end so the debt could get very large.

  • If a tenant is still being threatened with eviction, this is an urgent situation and the tenant needs tenancy advice. People will still be evicted because they may not meet the criteria for protection.