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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.

Last updated:

  • On 29 March the federal government announced a six-month moratorium on evictions for struggling renters. Further rental relief options are being examined by the National Cabinet.
  • If you are on a Jobseeker payment then you may qualify for federal rent assistance.
  • On 3 April the prime minister said the National Cabinet was working on a "mandatory code" which will outline the eviction moratorium in greater detail.

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). While the details are unclear at this stage the prime minister has said that renters in "financial stress" will not be evicted during the pandemic.

It will be up to state and territory governments to enact the moratoriums, as rental tenancy agreements are legislated at the state level.

If you're a home owner or have a mortgage, lenders have expanded their hardship assistance programs for homeowners. 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 eviction cannot take please.

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

In Tasmania, there is also a specific state law that suspends evictions temporarily.

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 reminding them 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.

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

Under the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020, the NSW Housing Minister is now empowered to ban evictions via regulation when parliament isn't sitting.

While the language of the bill is quite technical (you can read more about it here) the amendment includes alterations to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 which give the minister authority to alter or enact regulations "prohibiting the recovery of possession of premises by a landlord, owner or proprietor of premises from a tenant or resident of the premises under the relevant Act in particular circumstances." These circumstances are specific to the COVID-19 pandemic and take effect when the NSW parliament is not sitting.

What this looks like in practice is unclear for now but will hopefully result in a moratorium on evictions.

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. This period is currently 120 days, but could be extended by a further 90 days.

The Tasmanian parliament passed the COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020 on March 26.

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.

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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