THE VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT HAS ROLLED OUT A TEMPORARY SUPPORT PACKAGE FOR RESIDENTIAL TENANTS AND LANDLORDS HIT HARD FINANCIALLY BY THE COVID-19 CRISIS.
The $500 million package forms part of the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020, which passed parliament on 23rd April, and includes moratoriums on evictions and rent rises, rental assistance for struggling tenants, and tax relief for landlords who reduce rents. Premier Daniel Andrews is also urging Victorian landlords and tenants to “work in partnership” to get through the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
Here’s everything both parties need to know.
EVICTIONS AND RENT RISES
The government package includes a six-month moratorium on evictions and rental increases for tenants in financial hardship due to coronavirus, which is backdated from March 29.
Evictions will only be permitted if a landlord is selling a home, they or their family need to move into it, or a tenant is damaging a property or engaging in threatening behaviour. Tenants are free to vacate a property at any time.
Tenants Victoria Chief Executive Jennifer Beveridge said renters would also be able to break fixed-term leases in certain circumstances during the COVID-19 period, without incurring penalties.
End of fixed-term tenancy notices to vacate issued before March 29, with termination dates before September 29, are null and void.
The same goes for rent rises issued before March 29 and beginning between that date and September 29.
RENT REDUCTIONS AND LANDLORD TAX RELIEF
The package encourages landlords to discount rents for tenants struggling financially due to COVID-19 by offering them land tax relief to the tune of $420 million.
Landlords who reduce rents are eligible for a 25 per cent discount on their land tax, and any remaining land tax can be deferred until March 2021.
Brad Teal Rental Department Manager Prue Bryant, said tenants seeking rent reductions or deferrals should work out how much they could afford to pay ahead of seeking to negotiate an agreement.
Landlords could agree to reduce rents or defer rental payments, and both parties will receive a Deed of Agreement outlining the temporary terms.
Those who offered reductions should ensure their agreements had time limits. And landlords opting for deferrals should consider whether tenants will be able to pay the accumulated debt when it was due.
If a fair arrangement cannot be struck, the case can be escalated to Consumer Affairs Victoria for formal mediation
More than 11,390 rent reduction agreements had been registered with Consumer Affairs Victoria as of May 25.
“The most common queries from people relate to help negotiating a rent reduction agreement and advice about ending a tenancy,” a CAV spokesperson said.
FURTHER RENTAL ASSISTANCE
If a tenant is still paying more than 30 per cent of their income towards rent following mediation with their landlord, and they have less than $5,000 in savings, they will also be eligible for rental assistance payments worth up to $2,000.
Tenants must also have a household income of less than $100,000 and a bond registered with the Residential Tenancies Body Authority to receive the benefits of this $80 million government fund. Rental assistance payments will go directly to landlords.