New temporary laws have been implemented to protect Victorian tenants, landlords and the rental market from the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Tenants and landlords must comply with the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 and the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020. The new laws apply for six months from 29 March 2020.
New rules cover a moratorium on evictions, rent relief for eligible tenants, suspension of rental increases, land tax reductions and deferrals for landlords, and a new dispute resolution process.
- You can’t terminate a lease (a fixed tenancy that ends rolls over to a periodic tenancy). Some exceptions apply, the main one if it is a periodic tenancy and you want to sell it with vacant possession. We could not see moving back into the property as a valid reason to terminate.
- You can’t increase the rent. Any scheduled rental increase is not valid until after the regs end.
- If you experience financial hardship, you don’t have to maintain the property, other than urgent repairs.
- You and the tenant need to enter into an agreement about what rent is paid and when.
- There is no onus to waive any rent. What happens to rent that cannot be paid needs to be negotiated.
- If you can’t agree, you head off to the Commissioner for a determination.
- If an agreement is made and not honoured by the tenant, then you can apply to the Commissioner for the tenancy to be ended (after notice periods, etc.).
- Economic hardship is not defined, but details of economic hardship will need to be provided when going to the Commissioner. It does not seem like the tenant has to prove or provide anything to the property owner when claiming economic hardship.
- These regulations last until at least the end of September.
As these laws are constantly changing, for further information on landlord or tenants rights, please feel most welcome to contact us.