About one in ten of us are landlords, compared with one in 15 about two decades ago. And, the latest Census shows about a third of Australian households (2.6 million, to be specific) rent.
But, with the Australian government’s rental debt relief, eviction bans, rent freezes, and JobKeeper disappearing at the end of March, there was potential volatility on the horizon. Commentators have estimated about one million people – or up to 15% of tenants – carry rental debt thanks to the impact of the coronavirus. That’s despite rent dollar levels being 1.4% lower than before the pandemic.
Over the coming months, we’ll see how it plays out, with each state or territory’s civil and administrative tribunal deciding if eviction is reasonable and proportionate. First, find out what’s happening with regulations in your state or territory.
The lowdown: Western Australia
Ordinary tenancy laws have been back in place since March this year, so rent arrears is a valid reason for landlords to evict tenants. Rent increases are also permitted. The government encourages landlords and tenants to negotiate if there are any issues, and the WA Government has offered this guide for rentals.
But the government isn’t leaving tenants and landlords in the lurch post-pandemic. Under the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme, tenants can access up to 75% of their rent arrears and up to $4,000 to pay their landlord for outstanding arrears from before 1 December last year. As well, if tenants are struggling to pay rent after the 2020 emergency period, they can apply to the scheme for a $2,000 grant.
Meanwhile, in South Australia, the government’s initiatives to help tenants and landlords affected by the pandemic finished in May. If there are still issues, they encourage you to go before the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a resolution. Check out the official virtual assistant for tenancies, called Claire, which is available 24/7. There’s also a residential rental grant scheme – visit the website to see if you qualify.
The NT health minister extended the public health emergency in her state for 90 days from 23 March this year. It meant tenants and landlords were encouraged to talk through issues, while remaining mindful of the pandemic’s impact. When writing this article, it was unclear if the emergency continued, so check this page for the latest updates. It includes eight residential tenancy notices covering unpaid rent, repairs, eviction, and security deposits.
The Tasmanian Government was – until 30 June – offering support of up to $2,000 or four weeks’ rent to tenants and landlords in hardship due to the pandemic. Evictions were possible from 1 February, which is when the moratorium was lifted, and rents can increase.
Australian Capital Territory
Transitionary measures to help tenants and landlords coming out of the emergency period were due to be in force until the end of June, but check this official page to get the latest on whether they were extended. Those measures included eviction limits, encouragement to negotiate reduced rent, and restrictions on adding tenants to a blacklist. As well, the ACTD Civil and Administrative Tribunal can order tenants in arrears to pay rather than evict them.
The government’s protections for tenants and landlords will apply until the end of September. It supports tenants who need to vacate quickly due to domestic and family violence. Also, tenants shouldn’t be listed on a blacklist if they fall behind in their rent because of the pandemic’s impact. As well, those in moveable dwellings can extend their short-term tenancies. Eligible tenants who vacate their fixed-term tenancy early can enjoy limits on re-letting costs.
Meanwhile, since May, landlords no longer have relaxed repair and maintenance obligations on their tenanted properties. In addition, social distancing measures restricting landlords from inspecting their properties no longer apply.
And in Victoria, temporary coronavirus changes for landlords and tenants were lifted on 28 March. That’s the same day that applications for COVID-19 relief grants for tenants closed.
There are new laws in place, including landlords must have a valid reason to evict tenants – only police can evict tenants. Here’s the government’s Consumer Affairs page to guide you on the new rental laws.
Commercial and retail tenants and landlords should visit this Victorian Small Business Commission page to understand their rights and responsibilities. This is the government’s official page for the latest on tenancy issues.
In NSW, the government’s six-month transitionary period from the tenancy protections will lift at the end of September. Here’s a fact sheet about what’s happening in tenancy until 26 September. Please note: these details are true as at 28 June 2021, however given NSW’s recent lockdown, policies may change.
The changes include limited criteria to evict tenants with COVID-19-induced rent, water, or utility arrears that accrued from 15 April 2020 to 26 March. Tenants must show the pandemic has reduced their income using bank statements, employer letters, and other ways to prove their income. Also, landlords can’t evict tenants in rent arrears if they are an ‘impacted tenant’ who’s agreed to a repayment plan.
This national rundown shows differences between how each state and territory handles tenancy protections. Make sure you keep up to date. Feel free to talk with us about risk management as a landlord.