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FAQs: COVID-19 commercial tenancy changes

Last updated: 29 May 2020

Can tenants stop paying rent if they have been affected by COVID-19?

The new laws do not mean tenants can refuse to pay rent if they are able to do so.

How long must landlords provide rent relief for?

The maximum period that rent relief can be applied for is for the emergency period from 30 March to 29 September 2020 (unless extended). The request for rent relief can be backdated to 30 March 2020; you can therefore apply in May 2020 for the relief to start from an earlier date.

Will tenants have to pay interest on rent that has been deferred?

No, landlords cannot charge interest or add other charges to deferred rent.

What happens if the landlord refuses to respond in writing?

The landlord is compelled by law to respond. Tenants who find themselves in this situation should refer their landlord to the Act, and if there is still no response contact us.

What if a landlord and tenant are unable to reach an agreement about rent relief?

If no agreement can be reached on a rent relief, contact us for help through our dispute resolution service, this may include referral to a mediator.

If this fails to resolve the issue, an application can be made to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) for determination. An application to resolve a dispute cannot be made to SAT unless:

  • One or both of the parties that come to our dispute resolution team at the SBDC, and the Small Business Commissioner has provided them with a certificate to proceed to the SAT; or
  • Neither of the parties requested assistance from the dispute resolution team at the SBDC and they both agree to go directly to the SAT (this option is only available during the emergency period).

When the SAT is making a decision it is likely to take into consideration any comments the Small Business Commissioner has made on the certificate regarding the good faith conduct of the parties.

Can a tenant make a further request for rent relief after an original agreement has been made?

A tenant can make a further request for rent relief to the landlord if their financial circumstances changed substantially after an agreement was reached, by following the same process.

Can a landlord compel a tenant to extend a lease as a condition of offering rent relief?

No, extending a lease should be part of a separate discussion and not linked to rent relief.

Can a landlord draw down on tenant’s security to cover unpaid rent?

No, landlords may not draw down on a tenant’s security to cover unpaid rent during the emergency period.

Will confidential information provided by a tenant or landlord remain confidential?

A landlord or tenant must not divulge or communicate protected information obtained in connection with the code, unless authorised under the code.

What support is there for tenants in State Government owned premises?

Rental payments for small businesses will be waived for six months (30 March to 29 September 2020).

Are there any circumstances in which a landlord can evict a tenant during the emergency period?

A landlord can still evict a tenant for reasons not related to COVID-19, for example if the tenant has damaged the premises or failed to vacate the premises after the expiry of a fixed term lease.

Is there any financial support available for landlords?

The Australian Banking Association (ABA) announced a Small Business Relief Package in response to COVID-19 to allow borrowers such as commercial landlords of properties to access financial support.

Eligible landlords can also apply for the Land Tax Assistance for Landlords program to receive payments equivalent to 25 per cent of their land tax bill for 2019-20 relating to eligible tenants.

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