States and territories across Australia announced different rental assistance packages for tenants off the back of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
If you’re a tenant experiencing financial trouble due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, you are urged to start the conversation with your landlord/property manager and negotiate a rent reduction.
Here’s what’s been said in each state and territory to date:
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New South Wales
The NSW government has introduced measures to help tenants work together with their landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic. The $440 million package announced in April was designed to support tenancies to continue whenever possible.
There’s also a six-month moratorium (ban) on eviction orders being issued to rental arrears for tenants who have been impacted by COVID-19 and where landlords and tenants try to negotiate rent reductions.
Impacted by COVID-19 means your household has suffered a 25% or more reduction in household income (after tax, and inclusive of any government assistance) because one or more rent-paying members has:
- lost employment, income or work hours due to COVID-19 business closures or stand-downs; or
- had to stop working or reduce their work hours due to illness with COVID-19, or due to COVID-19 carer responsibilities for household or family members.
If you’re not impacted by COVID-19, you’re expected to honour your existing tenancy agreements, including paying all rent and charges in full.
More detailed information for tenants and landlords is available on the Fair Trading website.
The start date of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 has been delayed due to COVID-19, with the amendments to be introduced by 1 January 2021, rather than the original 1 July 2020.
The Government has replicated a small number of provisions from the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 into the new laws addressing the moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent due to COVID-19. These provisions relate to family violence and rental agreements.
In April, the Victorian Government announced a $500 million support package for residential and commercial tenants and landlords.
The package includes a six-month moratorium on evictions and rental increases, $420 million of land tax relief for landlords who discount rents for tenants in pandemic-related hardship, and $80 million in rental assistance for tenants who remain under financial stress after mediation. The latter will be paid directly to landlords.
In news announced in August 2020, the VIC Government moved to extend the ban on evictions for non-payment of rent and rental increases until the end of 2020. More on the latest updates for Victoria here.
On 24 April 2020, the Queensland Government introduced new laws for tenants and property owners affected by COVID-19. The temporary changes will remain in effect during the COVID-19 emergency, which lasts until 31 December 2020.
The QLD Government passed laws to implement the National Cabinet’s temporary six-month freeze on evictions, which has now been implemented in every state and territory.
Under the COVID-19 freeze on evictions, tenants who are significantly impacted by or suffering excessive hardship because of COVID-19 cannot be evicted or listed in a tenancy database.
Fixed-term agreements due to expire during the COVID-19 pandemic must also be extended to 30 September 2020 for tenants suffering excessive hardship because of COVID-19, unless the tenant requests a shorter term.
New changes now also give tenants experiencing domestic and family violence more options to end their tenancy arrangements. This will enable you to put plans in place to protect your families and to leave if needed.
In Western Australia, the Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service was established to help tenants and landlords who have a rental issue during the COVID-19 emergency period. The service was introduced by the WA Government to help tenants and landlords reach an agreement about a relevant dispute without going to court.
The WA Government also made available $30 million for grants of up to $2,000 for WA residential tenants who lost their jobs on or after 20 March 2020 and are facing financial hardship due to COVID-19. More info on the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme for WA here.
Rent cannot be increased during the COVID-19 emergency period, even if a new agreement has been negotiated.
Recognising the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on a number of South Australians, the SA Government endorsed a number of initiatives to help tenants and landlords whose incomes have been affected.
The new measures aim to institute a short-term moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent due to severe financial distress as a result of COVID-19 and prevent landlords from increasing rent. The measures also extend a tenant’s ability to arrange to have repairs carried out by agreement with the landlord.
Where SA tenants have been impacted by COVID-19 but still have the capacity to pay their rent, they should continue doing so. Where alternative arrangements are needed as a result of COVID-19, tenants and landlords are encouraged to work together on an agreement and – where an agreement cannot be reached – the matter may need to go before the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
A number of changes were made to residential tenancies in Tasmania under the COVID-19 Disease (Emergency Provisions) Act 2020. Changes include:
- Temporary suspension of evictions in most circumstances
- Immediate halt to any increases in rent
- Ability to reduce rent by mutual agreement
- Applications to break lease due to severe hardship
- Limited property inspections
- Delays in evictions due to rent arrears
- Minor changes to responsibility for cleanliness and damage if the tenant is unable to do so due to COVID-19.
The Tasmanian Government has extended the COVID-19 pandemic emergency period to 1 December 2020.
A COVID-19 Rent Relief Fund was also established in TAS to assist tenants suffering from extreme hardship. As of Thursday, 3 September 2020, more than 700 Tasmanian residential tenants had accessed the rent relief fund. The Tasmanian Government has now extended the Rent Relief Fund to 1 December 2020. The relief payment value is either the total of four weeks rent, to a maximum of $2,000, or the amount a tenant and owner have agreed to as a rent reduction. The value will be whichever is the lesser amount and the payment can only be applied once during this period. The fund was made available from 25 May 2020 and will end on 1 December 2020.
The Northern Territory Government examined the Residential Tenancies Act and the Business Tenancies Act to assist renters remaining in their rental properties for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.
On 28 April 2020, the NT Parliament passed the Tenancies Legislation Amendment Act 2020, which provides the framework for the Territory’s response to tenancy issues.
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT Government proposed a rent relief package to help private tenants who have lost their jobs or have had their income significantly reduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.