State & Territory updates

Residential rent relief 

 

Residential rent relief – State and Territory updates

The State and Territory Governments are announcing residential rent relief being offered to those that have been affected by COVID-19. These concessions are summarised below.

2020-05-04

Updated 4 May 2020

Click below to select a State or Territories update:

Australia Capital Territory

The Australia Capital Territory Government is yet to announce further information or legislation on rent relief for residential property.

This will be updated as soon as announcements are made.

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New South Wales

The new South Wales Government is yet to announce further information or legislation on rent relief for residential property.

This will be updated as soon as announcements are made.

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Northern Territory

The Northern Territory Government is yet to announce further information or legislation on rent relief for residential property.

This will be updated as soon as announcements are made.

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Queensland

On 24 April, a Practice Guide was released to help navigate residential tenancies affected by COVID-19. The Practice Guide implemented a range of measures aimed at providing protections and delivering stability in the rental market.  The measures implemented include: 

  • Tenants suffering significant hardship* because of COVID-19 who cannot meet their rent commitments cannot be evicted or listed in a tenancy database for rent arrears.

  • Fixed term agreements due to expire during the pandemic will be extended to 30 September 2020 unless the tenant requests a shorter term.

  • Property owners are required to only end COVID-19 impacted tenants with approved reasons and required notice periods.

  • Updated approved reasons to allow property owners and tenants to end their tenancy agreement if they need to during the pandemic period, including for example:Break fees will be capped for tenants who have experienced a reduction in income of at least 75% and have savings of less than $5,000.

    • For landlords – requiring vacancy to prepare the property for sale; or

    • For tenants – an unsafe environment because they are experiencing domestic violence.

  • Obligations on landlords for routine repairs and inspections have been relaxed.

  • A tenant may refuse physical entry for non-essential reasons.

  • Where agreement cannot be reached between landlords and tenants, the parties will be required to undertake conciliation.

*A tenant is considered to have suffered hardship due to COVID-19 if they experience an income reduction of 25% or more or their rent is 30% or more of their income during the pandemic period, and at least one of the following occur:

  • They or someone they care for are afflicted by COVID-19; or

  • They are subject to a quarantine direction; or

  • A public health direction closed or restricted their place of employment; or

  • A public health direction restricted travel to or from their place of employment; or

  • They are self-isolating because they or someone they live with or care for is vulnerable; or

  • They have been prevented from leaving or returning to Australia.

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South Australia

The South Australian parliament has passed legislation aimed at helping landlords and tenants who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For residential tenancies, the new measures aim to:

  • Provide that landlords must not increase the rent payable under a residential tenancy agreement;

  • Ensure that tenancy agreements cannot be terminated solely on the grounds of failure to pay rent where the tenant is suffering financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic;

  • Allow landlords to use technology such as FaceTime, live video or time-stamped photos for 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.

The legislation also provides the Governor with the power to make regulations, including for the purposes of mitigation of adverse impacts on a party to a lease resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally small businesses suffering from a significant downturn in trade as a result of COVID-19 are able to apply for a one-off $10,000 grant.

Land tax relief is also provided to eligible landlords, details of which can be found here.

The government is also monitoring legislative changes in other states who have begun implementing other aspects of the National Cabinet Code of Conduct  and may introduce further changes shortly.

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Tasmania

The Tasmanian Government is yet to announce further information or legislation on rent relief for residential property.

This will be updated as soon as announcements are made.

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Victoria

The legislation introduced on 23 April include the following changes impacting residential tenancy agreements:

  • The landlord must not increase rent payable under a tenancy agreement

  • The landlord must not give notice of a proposed rent increase to a tenant

  • The tribunal may make an order to reduce the rent payable or for the tenant to enter into a payment plan

  • The Landlord and agent must allow for rent to be paid by Centrepay

  • A tenant of landlord, who would have breached a term of the agreement, is not taken to have breached the term of it was not reasonably practicable to comply due to a COVID-19 reason.

Other government announcements

To date the commercial lease regulations have not been released, however announcements from the Victorian Government with respect to the type of relief that may be implemented include:

  • Evictions will be banned for residential tenancies for six months, except in some circumstances.

  • Evictions will also be banned for six months for the non-payment of rent for commercial tenancies involving small and medium-sized businesses.

  • Rental increases will also be banned for commercial and residential properties for the same period.

  • Tenants and landlords who struggle to strike a deal over rent reductions will be given access to a fast-tracked dispute resolution service, with Consumer Affairs Victoria or the Victorian Small Business Commission mediating to ensure fair agreements are reached.

  • $80m rental hardship fund to be established

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Western Australia

The WA parliament passed new legislation on 21 April to support tenants and landlords of both commercial and residential properties.

The proposed Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Response) Bill 2020 introduced: 

  • a moratorium on evictions for 6 months from 30 March 2020

  • affected tenants and landlords urged to negotiate if a tenant is in financial hardship

  • conciliation of tenancy disputes to be mandatory

  • a prohibition on rent increases during the emergency period

  • fixed term tenancy agreements due to expire during the emergency period will continue as a periodic agreement

  • relieving landlords 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)

  • Landlords or tenants experiencing undue hardship can apply to the Magistrates Court to have tenancy agreement terminated.

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How ShineWing Australia can help

If you are a landlord or tenant, please contact us for a complementary initial discussion to discuss your options and requirements with respect to determining rental relief under the Code of Conduct. Our financing specialists are also available to assist in requesting relief from your lenders.

Additionally, we can assist both landlords and tenants with determining eligibility for a range of Federal and State government economic recovery programmes. For more information on these packages, visit our dedicated COVID-19 webpage.

 

Click here to view our latest COVID 19 news and updates

Contacts

Daren McDonald

E dmcdonald@shinewing.com.au

Stephen O'Flynn

E soflynn@shinewing.com.au

Blake Rodgers

brodgers@shinewing.com.au

Abirami Chellapen

E achellapen@shinewing.com.au