Home Info Centre COVID-19 and renting: What tenants need to know
COVID-19 and renting: What tenants need to know
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COVID-19 and renting: What tenants need to know

01 Jun 2020 15 mins read

As the economic fall-out from COVID-19 impacts everyday lives, the government is working to make sure renters get a fair-go. Here is a state-by-state guide on what tenants needs to know.

For many Australians, COVID-19 has not been so much of a health pandemic but an economic apocalypse. Within days of physical distancing requirements and lock-downs being announced, more than one million workers lost their jobs. And since the restrictions began, millions more have seen their work arrangements change, with many experiencing a dramatic reduction in hours. The impact on some household incomes has been devastating.

The fear that tens of thousands of Australian families could become homeless prompted government stimulus and the banks to review mortgage payment options for owners struggling to pay.

Recognising that almost one-third of the Australian population are renters, the Federal Government moved to protect tenants from being evicted due to financial hardship resulting from COVID-19.

A six-month moratorium on evictions was announced, on 29 March, leaving it up to each state and territory to determine the details of the eviction moratorium and also any relief packages they wanted to deliver.

Each state and territory has now finalised its position on evictions and, in some cases, other tenancy matters like rent increases. Many jurisdictions have also announced rent relief packages to help tenants and landlords through the crisis.

Read on to see what arrangements apply in your area...

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 recommend you visit the Australian Government COVID-19 information pages and similar state/territory government sites (listed under each jurisdiction below) for the most up-to-date information.

Queensland (QLD)

If you are renting privately in Queensland and suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19, here’s what you need to know:

  • You can’t be evicted for the next six months for rent arrears due to COVID-19 (effective from 29 March to 29 September 2020).
  • You need to prove that you can’t afford to pay your rent and you can be asked to provide the same proof of finances as you would when starting a tenancy.
  • You can negotiate with your landlord/agent on your rent and repayments so long as you can prove that you are suffering hardship due to COVID-19. Financial hardship means your income has been reduced by at least 25 per cent or your rent is more than 30 per cent of your income.
  • You can still be evicted for any other approved reason to end a tenancy except for rent arrears caused by financial distress due to the impact of COVID-19.
  • If you  can’t pay rent due to the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and want to end your lease early, you can but you will only be able break the lease with limited fees (seven-day cap) if you can prove a 75 per cent loss of income and have less than $5,000 in savings.
  • If you can’t pay your rent due to financial hardship, your landlord/agent can’t put you on a blacklist.
  • You need to negotiate with your landlord/agent if you are having trouble meeting your rent obligations but if a solution can’t be reached, the RTA can step in.
  • Any changes to your tenancy arrangement, including rent adjustments, should be put in writing.
  • If your lease is due to expire over the next six months, it will automatically be extended to 30 September 2020 unless you and your landlord agree otherwise or there is an appropriate ground to end the tenancy.
  • If you are experiencing hardship, rental grants of up to four weeks’ rent (to a maximum of $2,000) were made available – however, applications closed on 27 April 2020.  
  • Your landlord’s obligations for routine repairs and inspections have been relaxed but they must still ensure your safety in the rental property.
  • You  can refuse physical entry for non-essential reasons, including routine repairs and inspections, particularly if a member of your household is a vulnerable person, but you must  agree to virtual inspections if physical inspections can’t take place.

More info:

  • Residential Tenancies Practice Guide – formalises the temporary requirements and protections for tenancies impacted by COVID-19.
  • 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.
  • Tenants Queensland – factsheets and resources for tenants.
New South Wales (NSW)

If you are renting privately in New South Wales and suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19, here’s what you need to know:

  • You must continue to pay your rent as normal, unless your income has been impacted by COVID-19.
  • There is an interim 60-day stop on landlords being able to seek your eviction (e.g. finalise an existing matter or make a new application) if you are in rental arrears due to COVID-19. During the 60 days you must negotiate a rental reduction in good faith with your landlord/agent. If you can’t negotiate a rent reduction with your landlord you can seek to terminate your lease through NCAT, which will limit compensation to the landlord at no more than two weeks’ rent.
  • After the 60 days, you can only be evicted if your landlord attempted to negotiate a rent reduction and you didn’t make good on your obligations and your eviction would be “fair and reasonable” – Fair Trading can step in. However, if you can’t pay your rent due to financial hardship caused by COVID-19 you can’t be evicted for the next six months for rent arrears (effective from 15 April 2020).
  • You need to prove that you can’t afford to pay your rent due to COVID-19 related financial hardship. Financial hardship means loss of income of at least 25 per cent. Proof means simple documents to show that you are impacted by COVID-19, e.g. proof of job termination/stand-down or loss of work hours, proof of Government income support or proof of prior income.
  • You can’t be put on a blacklist for rent arrears due to COVID-19 for the next six months.
  • Any unpaid rent still accrues as arrears during the six months and you must pay it back.
  • Your landlord can still apply to NCAT at any time to take possession of the property if they are suffering undue hardship.
  • The notice period to end a fixed-term agreement, periodic agreement or a tenancy because of breach of agreement other than for non-payment of rent or charges has been extended to 90 days.
  • You can still be evicted for any other approved reason to end a tenancy except for rent arrears caused by financial distress due to the impact of COVID-19.
  • Any changes to your tenancy arrangement, including rent adjustments, should be put in writing.

More info:

Victoria (VIC)

If you are renting privately in Victoria and suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19, here’s what you need to know:

  • You can’t be evicted for the next six months (effective from 29 March 2020), except in some circumstances, such as if you damage the property, use it for criminal activity, or serious violence occurs.
  • Your rent also can’t be increased until 26 September 2020.
  • If you are suffering financial hardship you can apply to end your tenancy and not have to pay the usual break-lease fees. Alternatively, you can negotiate with your landlord/agent if you want to stay at your rental property – Consumer Affairs can step in.
  • If your landlord agrees to a reduced rent, you will not have to pay back the difference between the original rent and the reduced rent at the end of the agreed period.
  • If your landlord agrees to freeze your rent, you will need to pay back the full amount  owing at the end of the agreed period.
  • Any changes to your tenancy arrangement, including rent adjustments, should be put in writing.
  • Your landlord/agent can’t put you on a blacklist if your rent arrears is due to COVID-19.
  • If you can prove rental distress, you can apply for a rent relief grant, which provides up to $2,000 for eligible tenants.
  • Distress means you are paying more than 30 per cent of your income on rent, you have less than $5,000 in savings and your household income is less than $1,903 per week.
  • To access the rental relief you must have negotiated with your landlord/agent and registered your revised agreement with Consumer Affairs or gone through mediation.
  • If you have a periodic (month-to-month) lease, you can still give your landlord 28 days’ notice that you will be leaving. That means you give them a notice 28 days in advance. If you are suffering severe hardship or your landlord has applied for an order ending your tenancy, you can give your landlord 14 days’ notice that you will be leaving. 

More info:

Western Australia (WA)

If you are renting privately in Western Australia and suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19, here’s what you need to know:

  • You can’t be evicted for the next six months (effective from 30 March 2020), except in some circumstances, such as if you are causing serious damage to the property or injury to your landlord or a person in an adjacent premises; you or your landlord is experiencing undue hardship; you are experiencing family violence and the perpetrator needs to be evicted; you abandon the premises; or the agreement is frustrated.
  • You must still pay your rent and rent not paid will accrue as arrears and must be repaid at the end of the six month moratorium, but your landlord can’t charge you interest on the arrears.
  • You need to negotiate with your landlord/agent if you are having difficulty paying your rent due to COVID-19 – if an agreement can’t be reached, Consumer Protection’s free conciliation service can assist you and your landlord to reach agreement about COVID-19 related tenancy disputes without having to go to court.
  • Any changes to your tenancy arrangement, including rent adjustments, should be put in writing.
  • You can still be evicted if you fail to pay your rent for any reason other than severe financial hardship or if you refuse to make a rent payment agreement.
  • Your rent can’t be increased for six months.
  • If your fixed-term lease is due to expire during the next six months, it will continue as a periodic agreement.
  • You can give 21 days’ notice to end your fixed-term tenancy prior to the listed end date without incurring break-lease fees if you are experiencing COVID-19 related financial hardship (you will still be liable for damage and rent arrears).
  • You or your landlord can apply to the Magistrates Court to have your tenancy agreement terminated if either party is experiencing undue hardship.
  • If you are suffering COVID-19 related financial hardship you can apply for a rental relief grant, which provides four weeks’ rent (up to $2,000) paid direct to your landlord to help with your rent payment. To be eligible for the grant you must have lost your job on or after 20 March 2020, applied to Centrelink for income support, have less than $10,000 in savings and still be paying at least 25 per cent of your income in rent. Access to the grant is only available when a rent reduction has been negotiated with your landlord or you have engaged Consumer Protection’s conciliation service.
  • Your landlord does not have to carry out non-urgent repairs if they themselves are experiencing financial hardship or are not able to access the premises due to restrictions on movement.

More info:

South Australia (SA)

If you are renting privately in South Australia and suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19, here’s what you need to know:

  • You must continue to pay your rent as normal unless your income has been impacted by COVID-19.
  • You can’t be evicted for the next six months for rent arrears due to COVID-19 (effective from 30 March 2020).
  • You can still be evicted for any other approved reason to end a tenancy except for rent arrears caused by financial distress due to the impact of COVID-19.
  • You must be able to prove financial hardship. Proof means evidence you have lost your job due to the pandemic e.g. a letter from your employer, a separation certificate or information about your business, bank account statements to indicate little or no savings, evidence of applying for a JobSeeker payment from Centrelink, evidence that you have applied for a release of money from your superannuation fund on the grounds of hardship, a letter from your accountant or financial adviser, or evidence of an application to the South Australian Housing Authority or other organisation for financial assistance with your tenancy.
  • Your rent can’t be increased for the next six months.
  • If you fall into arrears due to COVID-19, you can’t be blacklisted.
  • If you have difficulty paying your rent, you need to negotiate with your landlord/agent – if an agreement can’t be reached, SACAT can step in.
  • Unless you have an agreement that says otherwise, any rent debt will need to be repaid.
  • Any changes to your tenancy arrangement, including rent adjustments, should be put in writing.
  • If you or your landlord suffers undue hardship, either party can apply to SACAT to terminate the tenancy agreement.
  • If your landlord provides you with a rent reduction, they can get a reduction in their land tax bill.
  • Except in exceptional circumstances, property inspections must be conducted by audio-visual or other electronic means, and as neither the landlord nor the agent should physically enter the premises you must take reasonable steps to enable these video inspections to occur.

More info:

Tasmania (TAS)

If you are renting privately in Tasmania and suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19, here’s what you need to know:

  • Even if you are issued with a notice to terminate, you can’t be evicted, unless extreme circumstances prevail, until 30 June 2020.
  • You can’t be evicted for rental arrears due to COVID-19 during the 120-day emergency period (27 March to 25 July 2020).
  • Leases can still be terminated during the emergency period if you agree; if it is a non-fixed term tenancy and the notice to vacate was served prior to 3 April 2020 because the property is to be sold; where the notice to vacate has been served due to you using the property for an unlawful purpose; or if you or your landlord make a successful hardship application.
  • You must continue to pay your rent, and if you fall behind in your rent after the emergency period your landlord will be able to issue you with a notice to vacate for rental arrears.
  • Rent increases that were due to take place between 23 April and 30 June 2020 will no longer occur.
  • If you have difficulty paying your rent, you should negotiate with your landlord/agent.
  • Any changes to your tenancy arrangement, including rent adjustments, should be put in writing.
  • You or your landlord can still apply to the Magistrates Court to terminate the agreement as a result of violence or damage caused by wilful behaviour.
  • You or your landlord can also apply to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner to have a fixed-term lease terminated if either party is suffering severe hardship.
  • Severe hardship means your income has reduced by at least 25 per cent due to COVID-19.
  • If you are suffering from severe hardship, you may be eligible for up to $2,000 or four weeks’ rent, through the Rent Relief Fund. To be eligible for the rent relief you need to be experiencing COVID-19 related hardship, be in rental stress (e.g. paying more than 30 per cent of your income in rent) and have less than $5,000 in savings.
  • The rent relief payments will be made to your landlords and it will be a requirement they pass on this level of assistance to you via rent reductions.
  • During the emergency period, general repairs and maintenance will not be required to be done, but emergency or urgent repairs must still be carried out.
  • During the emergency period, unless agreed otherwise with you, landlords/agents can only undertake inspections for specific purposes such as  if they believe you are ill, injured or unable to give permission, if denial of immediate access is likely to result in damage to all or part of the premises, if there is a risk to you or another person present on the premises, damage has occurred to the premises, it is reasonably believed that the premises have been abandoned or to ensure that repairs have been appropriately carried out (so long as they give 24 hours’ notice to you).

More info:

The Northern Territory (NT)

If you are renting privately in the Northern Territory and suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19, here’s what you need to know:

  • Unlike in other states and territories, no moratorium on evictions has been introduced. However, you will have 60 days (previously 14) before your landlord can issue a notice for rent arrears and another 60 days (previously 14) before they can evict you – giving you 120 days to negotiate with your landlord.
  • You must be able to prove that COVID-19 restrictions has caused your income to be reduced and your rent requires more than 30 per cent of your income.
  • After 120 days, if no remedy can be found and negotiations break down, your landlord can move to evict you under the normal process at NTCAT.
  • Rent freezes and waivers have also not been introduced. Instead, if you are having difficulty paying your rent due to COVID-19, you need to negotiate in “good faith” with your landlord/agent.
  • Any changes to your tenancy arrangement, including rent adjustments, should be put in writing.

More info:

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

If you are renting privately in the Australian Capital Territory and suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19, here’s what you need to know:

  • If your household income has not been impacted by COVID-19, you must continue to pay your rent or face eviction.
  • You can’t be evicted for the non-payment of rent for three months (from 22 April to 22 July 2020) if your income has decreased by at least 25 per cent or if you are an eligible JobSeeker or JobKeeper, making yours an “impacted household”.
  • You must be able to prove that yours is an impacted household. Proof means evidence of eligibility for JobSeeker or JobKeeper payment,  job termination or stand-down such as a letter or email from your employer, proof of loss of work hours such as rosters showing a reduction in hours, proof of prior and current income in a bank statement or payroll, or making a statutory declaration.
  • If yours is not an impacted household, the moratorium on evictions does not apply to you.
  • You can still be evicted for any reason under the RTA, except for rent arrears if yours is an impacted household.
  • If you have been impacted financially by COVID-19, you can request a rental reduction for up to six months and you do not have to repay the difference between the original rent amount and the reduced rent.
  • If your landlord reduces your rent by 25 per cent, they might be eligible to claim a land tax credit or a reduction on their rates.
  • You can also request a rent freeze until you have access to some income, but any rent not collected during the period will be a debt you owe to your landlord (though they can’t charge you interest on this debt).
  • If you and your landlord can’t negotiate, the Conflict Resolution Service (CRS) is available to provide a restorative free residential tenancy mediation service.
  • If you can’t pay your rent due to COVID-19 financial losses during the moratorium period, you can’t be placed on a blacklist if yours is an impacted household.
  • Any changes to your tenancy arrangement, including rent adjustments, should be put in writing.
  • Your rent can’t be increased until 22 July 2020 if yours is an impacted household.
  • During the six months, your landlord/agent can’t physically access the premises unless they have your consent, or it is necessary to do urgent repairs to the premises, or it is in accordance with an order by the ACAT.
  • Landlords/agents are encouraged to conduct ‘virtual’ inspections of the premises using audio-visual or other electronic means in order to avoid physically accessing the premises, but if  you do not provide reasonable assistance to facilitate virtual inspections, your landlord could apply to the ACAT for an order that access be provided.
  • Urgent repairs must still be made within statutory timeframes, but where non-urgent repairs are needed you and your landlord can agree a reasonable timeframe.

More info:

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