The new legislation changes the existing Residential Tenancy Act 1997 for the duration of an 'emergency period' which lasts for 120 days from the date the amendment but can be extended by the Minister by 90 days at a time.
Reducing rent by mutual agreement
During the emergency period owners and tenants can come to an agreement to reduce the rent, if the agreement is:
- in writing AND
- signed by both parties
Any agreement will be taken to form part of the residential tenancy agreement.
Breaking a lease due to severe hardship
Tenants or owners can apply to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner to break a fixed term lease if its continuation would cause severe hardship to the tenant.
To make an application you should visit Consumer, Building & Occupational Services (CBOS).
The Commissioner’s order can be appealed to the Magistrates Court for 7 days after it is made. An order will take effect on the day after the end of the 7 day appeal period.
Delay to evictions due to rent in arrears
There will be a suspension of evictions for tenants relating to rent in arrears.
This means during the emergency period:
- owners will not be able to issue a notice to vacate for rent in arrears
- a notice to vacate given before the emergency period begins will have no effect if the tenant has not yet vacated.
This will suspend all evictions due to rent arrears, including those currently before the courts.
At the end of the emergency period, a property owner will be able to issue a notice to vacate and recover the rent in arrears, if the tenant is still in breach of their agreement, in the normal way. A property owner will be able to recover any outstanding rent from the tenant’s bond or, in the event the amount exceeds the Bond, through civil proceedings, just as they are able to do now.
IMPORTANT: The Government's strong advice to tenants is to continue to pay rent where they can afford to as these emergency period amendments do not provide for a rent holiday.
Read more information on ending a lease.
General repairs and maintenance
During the emergency period general repairs and maintenance will not be required to be done.
This reduces the need for tradesman to enter rental properties during the emergency period. There is no change to emergency or urgent repairs as these are necessary to ensure the health and safety of tenants.
Limiting property inspections
Whilst there is an emergency period in place, inspections will be limited to those for:
- urgent or emergency repairs
- other limited circumstances, such as if the owner believes there is a risk to the health and safety of the tenant, or that not gaining access will result in damage to the premises.
For further information and updates, please visit Consumer, Building & Occupational Services.
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The content of this newsletter is general in nature. It does not constitute specific advice and readers are encouraged to consult their Ruddicks adviser on any matters of interest. Ruddicks accepts no liability for errors or omissions, or for any loss or damage suffered as a result of any person acting without such advice. This information is current as at 27 March 2020, and was published around that time. Ruddicks particularly accepts no obligation or responsibility for updating this publication for events, including changes to the law, the Australian Taxation Office’s interpretation of the law, or Government announcements arising after that time.
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