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Rental relief and coronavirus: Support for Australian tenants who can’t pay rent

Struggling to pay rent because of coronavirus? There is now a six-month eviction moratorium to protect tenants in financial stress.

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In response to the coronavirus pandemic the Australian government has announced there will be rental relief in the form of a moratorium on evictions for six months (a moratorium means a temporary ban or suspension).

Read on to find tips for struggling renters and current support options, including links to tenancy support organisations.

Lost your job? Check out your support options

Can my landlord evict me during the coronavirus pandemic?

There is now a six-month moratorium on evictions in Australia for renters affected by coronavirus. This mean if you are unable to pay rent due to coronavirus-related financial stress then your landlord cannot evict you right now.

This does not mean that you can simply avoid paying rent or violate your lease in other ways, and the normal laws in your state or territory will still apply. But a moratorium means that evictions cannot take place. The details surrounding the eviction moratorium remain unclear at this time.

Consult your state or territory's tenants' union or advisory service if you think you are being evicted illegally.

Coronavirus rent support and policies by state

We will continue to update this page with more information as state, territory and federal governments announce changes to tenancy laws in response to the coronavirus.

NSW

In NSW there is a 60-day stop on evictions and a six-month restriction on evictions. These rules don't apply to all evictions, only for tenants who meet the coronavirus financial hardship criteria. The changes in regulations are designed to encourage landlords to negotiate rent reductions with their tenants.

  • 60 day eviction stop. Landlords cannot issue termination notices to renters struggling to make rent because of coronavirus.
  • Six month eviction restriction. For six months landlords are restricted from evicting tenants affected by coronavirus unless they try to negotiate reduced rent with their tenant first.

If a landlord will not negotiate or the tenant will be in financial hardship, the tenant can terminate a tenancy agreement.

Landlords can still apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to take possession of the rental property in cases of "undue hardship."

Eligibility

A tenant or household qualifies as affected financially by coronavirus if the household suffers an income reduction of 25% or more because:

  • One or more of the rent-paying tenants has lost a job or income.
  • One or more rent-paying tenants has had to stop working or work fewer hours because they are ill with coronavirus or are caring for someone who is ill with the virus.

Victoria

The Victorian government has announced a $500 million package for commercial and residential tenants and landlords, which includes a temporary eviction ban and a pause on rent increases for six months.

There is a one-off $2,000 grant for Victorians unable to pay their rent due to the pandemic. To qualify, you must reach a revised rental agreement and reduced rent amount with your landlord. Your household income must be under $1,903, have less than $5,000 in savings and be paying at least 30% of your income as rent.

The grant is paid directly to the landlord or agent.

Evictions

There is a six-month moratorium on evictions in Victoria for tenants who are suffering financial hardship to COVID-19.

Tasmania

The Tasmanian government has passed "a moratorium on the eviction of tenants for breaching a condition of their residential tenancy agreement, where that breach relates to rent being in arrears. A property owner will not be able to issue a notice to vacate for this reason during the emergency period."

In other words, while you still need to pay rent, your landlord can't evict you during the emergency period. No eviction notice will have any effect until 30 June 2020.

In cases of severe hardship, tenants can apply to have a tenancy severed.

Queensland

There is a six-month freeze on evictions for tenants experiencing coronavirus-related financial stress. Landlords and tenants must work together to negotiate rent reductions or other agreements, with disputes to be mediated through the Residential Tenancies Authority.

There is a $400 million land tax relief package to help Queensland landlords, in the form of a tax discount or refund, but only if they pass this saving on to their tenants.

You can learn more here.

The ACT

There is a temporary ban on evictions until 22 October 2020, although this may be revised. There is also tax relief for landlords who offer reduced rent to struggling tenants.

Western Australia

The Western Australian government passed a moratorium banning most evictions during the crisis. Hardship and property damage are still grounds for evictions. This emergency period runs until 29 September 2020 but may be revised to earlier or later date.

One-off cash grants are also available to some affected renters.

South Australia

The state has banned evictions and rent increases for six months. There is also land tax relief for residential and non-residential tenancies.

The Northern Territory

The NT government has not yet announced a specific eviction ban for residential tenants.

Tips for tenants who can't afford rent because of coronavirus

If you're currently struggling to pay rent because of unemployment or lost income here are some basic steps to take:

  • Know your rights as a renter. Read up on tenancy laws where you live and check your lease for specific details covering what you and landlord can and can't do.
  • Talk to your landlord. If you can't make repayments you should communicate this to your landlord. We know, your landlord is unlikely to waive your rental payments. But they need to know your situation and who knows, compassion may prevail (or they may offer a temporary rent reduction).
  • Get in touch with your local tenancy support service. There are organisations in every state and territory that offer counselling and legal guidance to struggling tenants. We've listed these organisations below.
  • Check if you're eligible for unemployment benefits. If you've lost your job recently then you may be eligible for a JobSeeker allowance or other payment. This payment has been increased due to COVID-19. If eligible, this could help you cover rent and bills.

Take Centrelink's quiz to see if you qualify for support

Existing government rent support in each state and territory

At the federal level the government offers rent assistance to eligible renters. You typically need to be receiving government support already to qualify.

There is some support for struggling renters at the state/territory level. The following pages are official government sites listing housing and rent information, including tenancy rules and types of rebates, payments and other support you may be eligible for.

Tenancy support organisations in each state and territory

Here's a list of specific organisations that offer support and legal guidance for renters in each state and territory. These are not government services but voluntary organisations and unions that help renters.

More questions about renting and COVID-19

Can inspections continue during the pandemic?

If your lease is ending soon your landlord or agent can show prospective tenants or buyers into your home. These inspections must be private inspections rather than open inspections, which are now banned.

Your agent must contact you in advance and should ensure that anyone entering your home doesn't touch anything, uses hand sanitiser and doesn't have any coronavirus symptoms.

How do I negotiate with my landlord or agent?

Talk to your landlord or real estate agent and be upfront about your situation. If you have any evidence to support your loss of income, such as a termination letter, make sure you send them a copy. Also keep records of all your correspondence with your landlord.

If you need help dealing with your landlord, reach out to your local tenancy union.

My real estate agent told me to access my superannuation to cover my rent?

If your real estate agent is giving you financial advice they are going beyond their role as an agent and potentially breaching the law. On 03 April the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) wrote a stern letter to real estate institutes requesting them to remind their agents not to provide unsolicited financial advice.

Always do your own research before making a financial decision and get advice from a licensed advisor if possible, or a debt counsellor.

Can I break my lease early if I can't afford rent?

If you want to break your lease because you can't afford the rent you should let your landlord know your intentions. They may agree to your terms or they may impose a break fee of some kind. If you cannot pay the rent at all your situation may considered hardship and a tribunal may consider this legitimate grounds for breaking your lease.

Need to save some quick cash?

If you're struggling to keep up with your finances - you're not alone. You can save plenty of cash by doing some simple admin with your bills and expenses. Maybe switching credit cards or downgrading your mobile phone plan could save some money.

Managing your daily finances can help you get through this difficult time - You'll be glad you did it.

Picture: GettyImages

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4 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    EmmaMay 25, 2020

    My lease expires next week and home has been put up for sale.
    If we can’t find anything suitable in the short time frame, is there any way we can force landlord to extend our lease on a month by month basis? We have asked for an extension but have been given 2 weeks with home opens and tradesmen booked in.
    thanks

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      TeyMay 26, 2020Staff

      Hi Emma,

      Thank you for contacting Finder. Hope all is well with you. 

      I am sorry to hear that your lease will expire soon. I understand you want to know if you can force the landlord to extend the lease.

      It is advisable to read up on tenancy laws where you live and check your lease for specific details covering what you and the landlord can and can’t do.¬†If you need help dealing with your landlord, you may reach out to your local tenancy union.

      If you’re from Western¬†Australia, the Western Australian government has announced it will legislate the six-month moratorium on rental evictions for residential and commercial tenants. The legislation will include a freeze on rent increases and no interest charged on rent in arrears. That means that your unpaid rent will need to be repaid but your landlord cannot charge interest on it. Rent will still need to be paid but the moratorium will prevent homelessness.¬†

      If the landlord will not agree on extending your lease, you may want to check out the Rental Assistance Options found on the Government of Western Australia Department of Communities Housing website which shows housing options, rental assistance, and information on tenant rights. 

      Hope this helps you. Feel free to contact us back for further inquiries you may have. 

      Regards,
      Tey

  2. Default Gravatar
    robinApril 19, 2020

    I have a foreign student renting my property and he can no longer afford to pay the rent as he has lost his job. What options does he have in rental support?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      RobynApril 22, 2020Staff

      Hello Robin,

      Thank you for contacting Finder.

      I understand you’d like to know what options does your tenant have when it comes to rental support. Since your tenant is currently struggling to pay rent because of unemployment or lost income, there are some basic steps that he might want to take into consideration:

      First, is to read up on tenancy laws where you live and check your lease for specific details covering what you and landlord can and can’t do. Coronavirus rent support and policies vary by state.

      2nd, it will be best that you both talk to each other and may be come up with an internal agreement on how to go about paying the rent at this moment.

      3rd, he can check if he is eligible for unemployment benefits. If he lost your job recently then you may be eligible for a JobSeeker allowance or other payment. This payment has been increased due to COVID-19. If eligible, this could help you cover rent and bills. The government has temporarily waived many waiting periods and expanded eligibility for the payment. He may check this page for more information on the Jobseeker payment.

      Hope this helps. Should you have further questions or clarifications, please do not hesitate to contact us again.

      Best Regards,
      Robyn

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