In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity
The rights and responsibilities of landlords are becoming clearer each day, as state and territory governments announce amendments to tenancy acts.
On 29 March, the Australian Government announced landlords will be banned from evicting tenants under financial stress caused by the COVID-19 economic downturn for the next six months. This came amid concerns the jobless wouldn’t be able to afford rent.
The state and territory governments were asked to settle on the finer details of the eviction freeze and move to put official moratoriums in place – which they are doing with legislation being passed in all jurisdictions. In some cases, the legislation has been amended to also address matters other than evictions, such as rent increases.
In addition to these changes in legislation, state and territory governments have also developed programs, such as relief packages, to support landlords and tenants through this unprecedented time.
IMPORTANT: While we have done all we can to make sure the info below is true and accurate at the time of publication, this is a constantly evolving situation and things may change. We will do our best to update this page regularly but recommend you visit the Australian Government COVID-19 information pages and similar state/territory government sites listed below.
Western Australia (WA)
Tenancy matters – evictions, break lease, rent increases (updated 26/05)
On 16 April, the Western Australian State Government passed legislation to address residential tenancies impacted by rental distress due to COVID-19.
The new legislation has introduced a moratorium on eviction for six months except in limited circumstances: if a tenant is causing serious damage to the property or injury to the landlord or a person in adjacent premises; the landlord or tenant is experiencing undue hardship; a tenant is experiencing family violence and the perpetrator needs to be evicted; the tenant abandons the premises, or the agreement is frustrated.
The WA Government noted that it was a moratorium on evictions, not a moratorium on rent. Tenants are required to continue paying rent and arrears will accrue. Any unpaid rent will still need to be paid at the end of the moratorium period and the landlord will then be able to pursue payment as they would normally. However, interest will not be able to be charged on rent arrears. Tenants can be evicted if they do not pay their rent for any reason other than severe financial hardship or refuse to make a rent payment agreement.
The moratorium period is effective for six months as of 30 March 2020 but can be reduced or extended by regulations to deal with changing circumstances.
The legislation also sees rent increases prohibited for six months and suspends landlords’ non-urgent repair obligations if they are experiencing financial hardship or are not able to access the premises due to restrictions on movement.
In addition, all fixed-term leases that are due to expire during the next six months will continue as periodic agreements, and tenants will be able to end fixed-term tenancies prior to the listed end date without incurring break-lease fees if they are experiencing COVID-19 related financial hardship (tenants will still be liable for damage and rent arrears).
Relief packages (updated 25/09)
On 23 April, the WA Government announced a $30 million package to support residential tenants and landlords.
Grants of up to $2,000 will be available for eligible tenants who have lost their job and are facing financial hardship. Under the scheme, grants equivalent to four weeks’ rent, up to a maximum of $2,000, will be paid directly to the tenant’s landlord to contribute to the tenant’s rental payments.
The grant will be available to tenants or sub-tenants who have lost their job, applied to Centrelink for income support, have less than $10,000 in savings, and are still paying at least 25 per cent of their income in rent.
The residential rent relief grants will be administered through the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, with applications opening from 1 May 2020. The grants will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to encourage landlords to negotiate early with tent who are in financial hardship due to COVID-19. To qualify for the residential grant, landlords must agree not to seek to recover this rent relief from tenants at the end of the period.
Friday, 25 September 2020
Next stage of grant helps tenants and landlords still affected by COVID-19
Tenants who received a grant and are still in hardship can apply again
Rent relief of up to $2,000 will be paid directly to landlords
Western Australian tenants struggling financially after losing their jobs will have a second chance to claim the State Government's rent relief grant, helping renters and their landlords recover from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Following the extension of the COVID-19 rent laws, the Residential Tenancies Rent Relief Grant Scheme has been extended.
Renters who have lost their job or more than 75 per cent of income due to COVID-19 can apply for a grant of four weeks rent to be paid to their landlord.
Landlords who have already been paid the grant and who have tenants who remain in financial hardship caused by COVID-19 may be eligible to receive a second grant.
The online application form is available until March 28, 2021. Landlords needing assistance can contact the new Landlord Hotline on 1300 30 40 54.
The WA Government has declared a state of emergency which prohibits non-essential travel into and around the State. WA’s borders are closed and travellers are not able to enter Western Australia unless exempt. This means that a landlord with a rental in WA but who lives in another state/territory will not be able to visit their investment property until the restrictions are lifted.
COVID-19 Consumer Protection FAQs – answers common questions asked about the impact of COVID-19 on tenancies.
Further resources for each state:
A Residential Tenancies Practice Guide COVID-19 for property owners and tenants formalises the temporary requirements and protections for tenancies impacted by COVID-19.
QLD rent relief
The Hub – the Queensland Government’s central point for information and support on the COVID-19 changes affecting renting in Queensland.
The Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) – can provide information and support tenants and property owners to reach mutual agreements during this time. It can also offer a free dispute resolution service if further support is needed.
New South Wales (NSW)
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal – has resources to help landlords through this time and can suggest action when parties are unwilling or unable to reach an agreement and action is taken to seek an eviction.
The NSW Government Office of Fair Trading – has information about getting through this time and has a dispute resolution service to assist landlords and tenants that are unable to re-negotiate and agree on new rental arrangements.
Relief Package information: here
Legislation to reform residential and commercial tenancy laws was passed by the Victorian Parliament on 23 April.
On 21 August Vic Government extended the ban on evictions to the end of the year.
On 15 April, the Victorian Government announced a $500 million package to assist commercial and residential landlords and tenants during the COVID-19 crisis.
Consumer Affairs Victoria – has resources for landlords and tenants.
South Australia (SA)
On 8 April, the South Australian State Government passed legislation that protects landlords and tenants during the COVID-19 crisis
Where tenants can’t pay rent as a result of COVID-19, they are encouraged to work with landlords on an agreement and – where an agreement cannot be reached – the matter may then go before the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
On 3 April, the Tasmanian State Government introduced a 120-day emergency period into its Residential Tenancy Act ending on 25 July and extendable by further 90-day increments if necessary.
Tenants who are experiencing housing stress (i.e. paying more than 30 per cent of their income in rent and with less than $5,000 in savings) because of the impacts of COVID-19 can apply for Rent Relief.
Consumer, Building and Occupational Services – offers advice for navigating this time and discusses the changes to Tasmania legislation.
The Northern Territory (NT)
On 28 April 2020 and 11 May 2020, the Northern Territory Parliament passed COVID-19 Modification Notices that impact the processes involved in the Residential Tenancies Act 1999.
Consumer Affairs NT – details the rental changes due to COVID-19.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
The Australian Capital Territory Government has made temporary changes to residential tenancy legislation to support tenants financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and to assist landlords. Measures include a moratorium on evictions due to rental arrears, a temporary freeze on rental increases and preventing ‘blacklisting’ as a result of tenants not being able to pay rent.
The ACT Government has advised that landlords who choose to reduce their tenant’s rent will receive rebates on their land tax bills.
If a landlord decides to reduce their tenant’s rent by at least 25 per cent for up to six months the ACT Government will match 50 per cent of the rent reduction to a maximum of $2,600 over six months (or $100 per week). The government’s share of the rent reduction will be provided to landlords via a rebate on their 2019-20 quarter 4 and 2020-21 quarter 1 land tax bills.