FAQs for Residential Tenants during the coronavirus health crisis

(Current as at 30/04/2020)

The purpose of this document is to provide residential tenants in Victoria with answers to their questions and with updates on the developing response to coronavirus as it impacts housing security.

Both tenants and landlords must comply with the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

If you have any questions that aren’t answered below, please email them to Carolyn Purnell-Webb, Partner - Property Management & Leasing, on CPurnellWebb@kayburton.com.au.

Please note, however, that you should seek independent legal and financial advice.

Legislation was passed on 24th April pertaining to termination of tenancies and rent increases/reductions, which has raised a few questions on the implementation. Consumer Affairs Victoria will be integral in resolving disputes between landlords and tenants in relation to rent reductions where an agreement cannot be reached. Should an agreement still not be reached, an official from the Dispute Resolution Centre will make an enforceable order. 

What happens if I cannot pay my rent, as agreed, at this time?

Firstly, please contact your property manager to discuss your situation. You will be asked to provide us with documentation to support your claim for rent relief. Once received and verified, we will contact your landlord to discuss the matter further, with the goal to produce a mutually acceptable outcome for both you and your landlord.

Am I eligible for rent relief from the Government?

To be eligible, renters will need to have registered their revised agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria or gone through mediation, earn less than $100K per year, have less than $5K in savings, and still be paying at least 30% of their income in rent. Rent relief will be capped at $2K. 

What types of rent relief are available?

The three types of rent relief that are available to you are: (1) rent reductions, (2) rent deferments and (3) rent waivers. Good communication between you and your property manager is critical at this time.  

Reductions are a set amount that the rent will be reduced for a set period. Rent payments at the reduced amount reflect that full rent has been paid during this period. This is not recoverable at a later date; it is a complete waiver of the amount agreed.

Deferments are agreements by the landlord not to pursue you for rent arrears, however the rent does accrue.

Waiver is effectively a rent-free period.

What happens if I default on my rent during this time?

As of Sunday 29 March 2020, the National Cabinet agreed to a moratorium on evictions over the next six months (29 March 2020 – late September/early October) for residential tenancies in financial distress who are unable to meet their commitments due to the impact of coronavirus.

If you are unable to pay rent due to coronavirus-related financial hardship, please contact your property manager to discuss your situation immediately. A mutually acceptable arrangement for you and your landlord may be possible.

Why do I have to pay rent when the landlords can freeze their mortgages? 

While landlords can freeze their mortgage payments for a six-month period, the interest will be capitalised at the end of this period. Landlords aren’t not paying their mortgages; they’re just deferring payments. The difference is that they can do it over the term of their loans, whereas tenants will be required to pay any outstanding rent in a much shorter time period. 

Will I be liable to pay rent in arrears at the conclusion of the moratorium?

Yes, you will be legally required to pay the rent, as agreed, in arrears at the conclusion of the moratorium. Payment could be made in one lump sum or you could be placed on a mutually acceptable payment plan. If, after 14 days, you do not pay rent, the standard procedures will apply. For more information, please see https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/housing/renting/during-a-lease-or-residency/rent-and-other-payments/rent-arrears

Am I able to leave my tenancy at this time? 

At this time, you can break your lease early or, in some circumstances, have your fixed-term period reduced. The process for claiming the bond remains the same.  

Can my landlord increase my rent at this time?

No, the Government has placed a six-month ban on residential rental increases, from 29 March, 2020, until late September/early October, 2020. 

Can open-for-inspections continue at this time?

No, the National Cabinet has prohibited auctions and open-for-inspections from midnight 30 March 2020 to midnight 13 April 2020.

Can I stay home while property maintenance takes place or do I need to leave while the works are completed? Can I request to take the assigned contractor’s temperature and ask his/her to wear a mask and gloves that we provide? 

If you would like repairs carried out during this time, it is up to you whether you would like to remain at the property during this time or not. You are certainly not obligated to leave your property while the repairs are carried out. All of Kay & Burton’s preferred partners that are working at this time are adhering to all of the current health-and-safety requirements. If you will feel more comfortable taking the contractor’s temperature and having him/her wear a mask and gloves, we can communicate this request to the service provider and revert back to you with their response. 

Can my landlord issue a notice to vacate because a family member needs to move in during a moratorium? 

According to the Emergency Measures Bill, a notice to vacate can be issued if the premises is to be immediately occupied by the landlord, landlord's partner, son, daughter, parent or partner's parent or a person who normally lives with the landlord and dependent. 

What new measures have been introduced as part of the COVID-19 (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 in relation to the Residential Tenancies Act reform?

Under the current legislation, a party to a residential tenancy agreement will be in breach if they don't perform their oblilgations in a prescribed or contracted way. The Emergency Measures bill removes, in certain circumstances, the status of 'in breach' (s542) which precludes certain actions, such as termination or possession orders, if the act or omission is due to a COVID-19 Reason (s537), taking into account reasonable and proportionate considerations (s538). 

COVID-19 Reasons (s537) include: 

  • A person is ill (not necessarily COVID-19 related)
  • A person's compliance is affected by the exercise of emergency or public health powers
  • A person cannot comply, or is not reasonably practicable for the person to comply, without suffering severe hardship
  • The person cannot comply, or it is not reasonably practicable for the person to comply, because of exceptional circumstances in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic

Reasonable & Proportionate (s538) considerations include: 

  • The nature, frequency and duration of the conduct of the tenant which led to the notice being given, including whether the conduct is a recurring breach of obligations under a tenancy agreement
  • Whether the breach is trivial
  • If the conduct that led to the breach was caused by any other person
  • If Family Violence Order applications have been made or are in force
  • Whether the breach has been remedied
  • If the tenant has, or will soon have, capacity to remedy the breach
  • The effect of the conduct of the tenant on others, such as co-tenants
  • If there is any other course of action reasonably available
  • The behaviour of the landlord or landlord's agent
  • Any other matter VCAT feels is relevant 

Where can I go for legal advice regarding my situation?

Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program (TAAP) services help Victorians who have a private residential tenancy agreement and are experiencing financial hardship. For more information, please visit https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/clubs-and-fundraising/funded-services-and-grants/tenancy-and-consumer-program-2017-21/tenancy-assistance-and-advocacy-program/tenancy-assistance-and-advocacy-program-providers-2018-19

Again, If you have any questions that aren’t answered above, please email them to Carolyn Purnell-Webb, Partner - Property Management & Leasing, on CPurnellWebb@kayburton.com.au.

 


Important Messages

Be the first in the know

Receive the latest Kay & Burton property news delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe now No thanks!