Renters in NSW during the coronavirus pandemic
While politicians are rightly concerned about the impact on the economy of the coronavirus pandemic, the real rubber hits the road for us when it comes to paying bills. And for about a third of us, coming up with the rent when jobs are being shed at a prodigious rate is a massive problem. Where do you stand as a renter in these trying times?
The first thing is that there’s good news.
Earlier this week the National Cabinet, made up of the state premiers, territory chief ministers and the prime minister enacted measures to protect tenants who are facing financial hardship because of the coronavirus. The national cabinet said that tenants cannot be evicted if they have financial hardship caused by the pandemic.
However, tenancy laws are state-based so the national cabinet couldn’t make laws to protect renters and landlords. So, you need to look at what’s happening in your specific state or territory to know where you stand when it comes to paying rent when you’re under financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The good news is that there are reports all around the country of landlords either suspending or discounting rent. But the states and territories are also moving to support renters and landlords, both residential and commercial, at this time.
However, at this time, it’s important to understand that no laws have been changed or enacted to protect renters. That may come but at the moment, renters are subject to the same rules and laws when it comes to paying on time.
Tasmania is leading the way for renters during the coronavirus pandemic
The Apple Isle is already debating legislation to protect renters.
It’s been reported there would be no effect to eviction notices for a renter for 120 days, with an extension for a further 90 days in exceptional circumstances.
So, potentially, a renter who is unable to make rent could be saved from eviction for almost five months.
Renters that can pay their rent don’t get time off – landlords need to eat as well. But for those in genuine hardship, a safety net is being developed.
Victoria boosts support for renters during the coronavirus pandemic
Tenants Victoria is putting out regular updates and says the Victorian government has announced an increase to the Housing Establishment Fund (HEF) and Private Rental Assistance Program (PRAP) funds. These funds assist private and social housing tenants with covering their rent. The funds are distributed through local agencies that can be contacted through Opening Doors on 1800 825 955.
VCAT is still operating for urgent matters as well so renters in dispute with landlords can still have those issues arbitrated.
Information for renters in Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland
In the Northern Territory, the Darwin Community Legal Services says, in an FAQ that “it is important to know that at this stage nothing about the COVID19 crisis changes anything about your rights and obligations in your tenancy”.
South Australia’s SYC has some information but it boils down to, nothing new has emerged so renters still have the same obligations as before the COVID-19 crisis. They recommend that tenants take a “rent first” approach to payments and that they “enter into a payment plan for their utility bills (electricity, gas, telephone) and/or seek assistance for food from community/charitable organisations”.
Nothing has changed in Western Australia. Tenancy WA is offering online appointments to support renters in difficulty.
Tenants Queensland has a FAQ as well but the advice is similar to other states. Do your best to pay your rent, negotiate with utilities for payment plans and stay in contact with your landlord so they know what’s going on.
Hopefully there is more to come as the situation develops.