17 April 2020

Government moves to clarify COVID-19 rental measures

| Ian Bushnell
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New regulations are on the way for residential tenancies during the during COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Supplied.

The ACT Government has moved to clarify the situation for tenants, landlords and real estate agents around rent payments and evictions when jobs and income have been disrupted by the COVID-19 lockdown.

The government has released new information fact sheets about what relief is available, how the arrangements will work and all parties’ rights and responsibilities, as well as flagging a new regulatory framework for residential tenancies.

This comes after the ACT Government committed to implement a six-month moratorium on rental evictions for tenants suffering significant financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, as agreed by all State and Territory leaders at the National Cabinet.

It also comes as landlords and property managers grapple with how the new arrangements will work and what they say is a lack of a clear framework from the government.

The government says significant financial subsides are available for landlords to support a reduction in rent for tenants impacted by measures to slow the spread of the virus, but also says the situation is not a licence for tenants to stop paying rent.

To receive the Rent Reduction Rebate, landlords must reduce tenants rent by at least 25 per cent for up to six months. The government will match 50 per cent of the rent reduction to a maximum of $2,600 over six months or $100 per week, and pay this to landlords through a rebate.

The ACT Government is also preparing regulations to support any tenant under financial duress due to COVID-19 restrictions, including a short-term moratorium on evictions, temporary freeze of rental increases and prevention of ‘blacklisting’ as a result of being unable to pay rent.

Parties may also reach an agreement to delay rental payments if a tenant is not earning income. Any outstanding rent during this period will be a debt owed to the landlord, but this will be interest-free for the moratorium period.

Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay says the Government also intends to have a regulatory framework on residential tenancies finalised soon and fact sheets will be updated.

“We understand this is a difficult time for many Canberrans, particularly those that have suffered a significant reduction in their income. Like all governments around Australia, we are committed to ensuring Canberrans and local businesses that are struggling financial are not unfairly kicked out of their property,” Mr Ramsay said.

“However, this isn’t a licence for tenants to completely forgo their rental obligations. If you can continue to pay your rent, then you will be required to continue doing so.”

He said this information should help parties understand their rights and obligations as the ACT Government worked with other State and Territory Governments to finalise regulatory frameworks for residential tenancies and the six-month moratorium on evictions.

“All parties need to come to the table if their living situation has been disrupted due to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

To view the fact sheets on rights and obligations during this period visit COVID-19.

If you’re a tenant and need legal advice, contact ACT Legal Aid on 1300 654 634.

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