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COVID-19 and renting: What tenants need to know
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COVID-19 and renting: What tenants need to know

28 Aug 2020 15 mins read

This article was last reviewed and updated on 25 August 2020. 

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) - updated 25 August 2020

If you are renting privately in Queensland 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 rent arrears due to COVID-19 until 29 September 2020 (moratorium effective from 29 March).
  • 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 (7-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) - updated 25 August 2020 

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 was an interim 60-day stop on landlords being able to seek your eviction (i.e. finalise an existing matter or make a new application) if you were in rental arrears due to COVID-19 – this interim period ended on 13 June 2020.
  • As of 14 June 2020, your landlord can issue a termination notice or apply to NCAT for an eviction only if they have participated in good faith in a rent negotiation process run by Fair Trading and it's fair and reasonable in the circumstances for a tenancy to be terminated.
  • There is a six-month restriction (from 29 March 2020) on your landlord evicting you if you are financially disadvantaged by COVID-19, unless they have first attempted to negotiate a rent reduction with you.
  • 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.
  • If you meet the eligibility criteria for being impacted by COVID-19, you can apply to NCAT to end your tenancy if your landlord refuses or fails to participate in a process provided by Fair Trading to negotiate rent reductions, or you and your landlord are unable to agree on a rent reduction and repayment arrangement that would avoid financial hardship for you – if NCAT agrees to end the tenancy they can decide that you will pay compensation of up to two weeks’ rent to your landlord
  • You can’t be put on a blacklist for rent arrears due to COVID-19 during the six-month period.
  • 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) - updated 25 August 2020

If you are renting privately in Victoria 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 until 31 December 2020, except in some circumstances, such as if you damage the property, use it for criminal activity, or serious violence occurs (moratorium period 29 March-31 December 2020).
  • Your rent also can’t be increased until 31 December 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.
  • 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 $3,000 for eligible tenants – you have until 31 December 2020 to apply for the grant.
  • Tenants who previously received the $2,000 rent relief will be contacted by Housing Victoria to confirm continued eligibility for the grant and be provided with a $1,000 top-up – you do not need to do anything. 
  • 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

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 must continue to pay your rent as normal unless your income has been impacted by COVID-19. 
  • You can’t be evicted until 29 September 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 (moratorium effective from 30 March-29 September 2020).
  • 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 is mandatory and can assist you and your landlord to reach agreement about COVID-19 related tenancy disputes without having to go to court.
  • Your landlord can ask for proof of financial hardship such as emails, letters or other communication between you and your employer during the COVID-19 crisis (but they can’t ask for evidence of savings or spending habits by demanding bank or superannuation statements). 
  • 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 until 29 September 2020.
  • If your fixed-term lease is due to expire during the six-month moratorium period, 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 – you have until 29 September 2020 to apply but the grant program is limited to a total of $30 million in funding which may be claimed prior to this date. 
  • To be eligible for the grant you must have lost your job on or after 20 March 2020 due to COVID-19/have had your weekly income reduced by at least 75 per cent (applies to the self-employed, sole traders, casual workers and contractors), have less than $10,000 in savings and still be paying at least 25 per cent of your after-tax income in rent.
  • 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) - updated 25 August 2020

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.
  • If your income has been impacted you should talk to your landlord with the aim of setting up a written, signed payment plan.
  • If you can’t reach an agreement and you don’t pay your full rent, your landlord may apply to SACAT for an order about the tenancy.
  • You can’t be evicted for rent arrears due to COVID-19 until 8 October 2020 (moratorium effective from 30 March-8 October 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 until 8 October 2020, even if an increase is specifically permitted in the tenancy agreement.
  • 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.
  • 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 are suffering 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:

  • You must continue to pay your rent as normal unless your income has been impacted by COVID-19.
  • Even if you are issued with a notice to terminate, you can’t be evicted for rental arrears due to COVID-19 until 30 September 2020 (moratorium effective from 27 March-30 September 2020). However, from 1 July 2020, a termination notice can be issued if you agree; if it is a non-fixed term tenancy and the notice to vacate has been served because the property is to be sold, have major renovations or to allow the owner or a close family member to move in; where the notice to vacate has been served due to you using the property for an unlawful purpose; a court terminates the lease; or if you or your landlord make a successful hardship application
  • Rent increases that were due to take place between 23 April and 30 September 2020 will not take effect until 1 October 2020. 
  • 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 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. 
  • 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 will need to provide income statements, payslips, bank statements and Centrelink statements), you may be eligible for up to $2,000 or four weeks’ rent, through the Rent Relief Fund – you have until 30 September 2020 to apply. 
  • To be eligible for the rent relief you need to be experiencing COVID-19 related hardship, be in rental stress (i.e. paying 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. 

More info:

The Northern Territory (NT) - updated 25 August 2020

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.
  • The Modification Notice is in place until 23 September 2020.
  • You must be able to prove that COVID-19 restrictions have 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 freezers 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) - updated 25 August 2020

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 until 22 October 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” (moratorium effective 22 April-22 October 2020).
  • 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 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 negotiate with your landlord for a reduced rent; mutual agreement can be given effect by including a COVID-19 temporary rent reduction clause in the residential tenancy agreement, and providing a written confirmation of the agreed reduced rent and the period the reduced rent applies.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • Your rent also can’t be increased until 22 October 2020 if yours is an impacted household. 
  • If yours is not an impacted household, your rent can be increased. 
  • 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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