Commissioner's Blog: New COVID-19 tenancy laws
Keeping a roof over everyone’s head has never been more important as thousands of people suffer job losses due to the economic fall-out of COVID-19 coronavirus restrictions.
New laws are now in place to ensure renters can stay in their homes and businesses won’t have to leave their premises, while recognising that landlords shouldn’t be unnecessarily burdened.
The emergency residential tenancy laws aim to provide some certainty during these uncertain times for those in private and public housing, residential long stay parks, as well as boarders and lodgers.
A six-month moratorium on evictions and rent increases is now law, meaning renters can’t be evicted except in very limited circumstances such as causing damage to the property; posing a threat to the landlord or neighbours; refusing to pay any rent and refusing to make a rent repayment agreement; or if they abandon the property.
It is important to remember that this is a moratorium on eviction, not a moratorium on rent, meaning tenants who can afford to pay rent should continue to do so in order to avoid building up a debt that may need to be paid back when the moratorium ends.
Affected landlords and tenants are being urged to respectfully talk to each other and come to an acceptable agreement for the six-month period and beyond which could include a rent-free period, a decrease in rent or an affordable payment plan when the crisis is over.
If agreement can’t be reached, Consumer Protection will be responsible for the mandatory conciliation of disputes between landlords and tenants.
It’s useful for tenants to know that landlords do not have to carry out non-urgent repairs if they themselves are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 but still have to make urgent repairs and restore essential services like gas and electricity if these aren’t working.
For small commercial tenancies, a rental agreement also needs to be reached for the moratorium period and a code of conduct will provide a framework for negotiations and help businesses to survive the current financial crisis.
If there is any evidence of tenants or landlords abusing the moratorium, the Government has stated that it will not hesitate to introduce further laws that will deal with those circumstances.
Further information about the other new relief measures and what they might mean for you is outlined on our FAQ page: www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/cpcovidfaq
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