COVID-19 Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service
The new Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service was established to help landlords and tenants who have a rental issue during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic emergency period. It was introduced by the WA Government to help landlords and tenants reach agreement about a relevant dispute without going to court.
The goal of conciliation is for all sides to reach a fair and achievable solution through informal discussion.
Terms we use on this page
- Emergency period = 30 March 2020 to 29 September 2020
- Landlord = lessors, property managers, owners, park operators, and providers of boarding and lodging accommodation.
- Tenant = all tenants in private rental homes, public, social, community and government officer housing; long-stay residents in residential parks; and boarders and lodgers.
Applying for conciliation
What is conciliation?
Through this service, conciliation is a process where a neutral person (a conciliator) facilitates an informal discussion between a landlord and tenant about a rental issue. The goal is to help them reach a fair and achievable solution that works for everyone.
Conciliation is different than court. The conciliation process is informal and gives you the power to choose the outcome in a non-adversarial setting. The court or tribunal process is formal and a decision is made for you.
What is a relevant dispute?
A relevant dispute is a rental issue that has arisen under the Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020.
This means that if you have:
- a residential tenancy agreement,
- a long-stay agreement in a residential park, or
- an accommodation agreement (boarding and lodging agreement),
and you have a dispute about one or more of the following that has arisen during the emergency period:
- rent repayment,
- rent increase,
- termination of the agreement,
- changes to the term of the agreement, or
- repairs to the premises,
then most likely you will have a relevant dispute.
What do you mean by mandatory?
If you are involved in a dispute that is being conciliated through this service, you must participate in the process. This means you have to at least talk to the conciliator and take part in a conciliation with your landlord/tenant. The conciliator will be flexible to ensure you have every reasonable opportunity to participate. It is an offence to not participate and you may be fined.
Please note: Failing to reach agreement is not an offence. Consumer Protection’s conciliators will work to help landlords and tenants but sometimes people simply cannot agree.
Who are the conciliators?
Consumer Protection conciliators are impartial and have extensive experience in negotiating rental disputes. Their knowledge of the residential rental sector and the impacts of COVID-19 will support landlords and tenants to consider all possible options based on Western Australia tenancy laws.
They will help you make informed decisions and reach an outcome that is acceptable to everyone.
How much does it cost to use the conciliation service?
The service is free of charge.
What do I have to do before I apply for conciliation?
Tenants and landlords are encouraged to agree on solutions together. Therefore you need to try to reach agreement with the other person first. If this is not possible or hasn’t worked, then you can submit your dispute to the mandatory conciliation service.
Both tenants and landlords may wish to view the Consumer Protection Guidelines for rent repayment agreements and Optional rent repayment agreement template for information about negotiating a reduced rent agreement.
How do I apply for conciliation?
To start the conciliation process you need to make a submission by completing an online application form. This form asks for basic details about you, the other persons involved (landlords and tenants), the rental property, and the dispute.
Only one person (either the landlord or the tenant) needs to make a submission.
How the process works
In addition to the questions below, see the COVID-19 Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service flowchart for a downloadable quick reference guide to the conciliation process.
What happens when I submit my application for mandatory conciliation?
Once Consumer Protection receives your submission, you will be sent a confirmation email.
Consumer Protection will then review your application to see if the dispute is eligible for the conciliation service. We may contact you and ask for additional information.
What happens if my application is accepted?
Everyone involved will be notified by email. A Consumer Protection conciliator will then call each person individually to explain how the process will work, help clarify their concerns, and identify possible solutions.
The conciliator will bring everyone together for the conciliation, most likely by telephone or video conference. The aim is to help everyone talk together, understand each other and develop a solution that is fair and reasonable in these COVID-19 circumstances.
If you reach agreement, the new agreement can be converted into a binding order. This means if the other person doesn’t comply with the order, you can go to court or tribunal.
What happens if my application is not accepted?
Your application will only be dismissed if:
- you are asked for more information and you do not provide it,
- it is not a relevant dispute,
- the dispute is vexatious or frivolous,
- the dispute has already been through the mandatory conciliation service, or
- the dispute has already been decided by a court or tribunal.
How long does conciliation take?
The conciliation session lasts approximately one hour and takes place at an agreed time and date.
Before scheduling the conciliation session, the conciliator will call each person separately to understand their concerns and to help them prepare. This pre-conciliation call may take up to half an hour.
What can I expect at conciliation?
The conciliator will:
- open the discussion,
- invite each party to make an initial statement,
- acknowledge parties’ statements and identify issues,
- encourage open discussion and exploration,
- lead parties to generate options and initial negotiation, and
- inform all parties of final outcomes and next steps.
What kind of agreement is possible?
The type of agreement possible is entirely up to the landlord and tenant and what suits their circumstances. It's most important that the agreement be achievable for everyone involved.
The conciliator will encourage honest and open discussion of options, such as whether rent could be waived for a period (not expected to be paid back), deferred (expected to be paid back), or some combination.
Some examples include the landlord agreeing to the tenant:
- not repaying the accumulated rent debt for some or all of the period
- only paying some of the accumulated rent debt, but more if they are able to
- paying a reduced rent for a period of time, deferring payment of the remaining rent until after the emergency period, and putting in place a repayment plan that’s manageable
The conciliator will encourage you to consider for how long the tenant needs rent relief and when the tenant’s usual rent payments will start again.
The landlord and tenant can decide together the timeframe for repaying outstanding rent.
Preparing for conciliation
What can I do to prepare for conciliation?
The conciliator may ask you to provide supporting information such as your lease agreement and relevant correspondence.
If you are experiencing financial hardship and need to negotiate a rent repayment agreement, it is a good idea to have a budget prepared. This will help you know what you can afford and make an agreement that is achievable. The Moneysmart budget planner is a helpful tool.
It is also a good idea to prepare evidence that your income has reduced, such as a letter from your employer or, if you are self-employed, records from your business.
Other evidence might include:
- Evidence that a tenant has had to stop working or substantially reduce work hours due to illness with COVID-19, or to care for a household or family member with COVID-19, or has had to self-isolate due to health vulnerabilities.
- Appropriate evidence to support not being able to afford repairs to the premises.
Can a property manager or tenant advocate help me in the conciliation?
Landlords and tenants can have a property manager or tenant advocate present during the conciliation. If necessary, that person can represent the landlord or tenant provided they are not a legal practitioner.
For a property manager or tenant advocate to represent you, they must have proper authorisation and know what you will agree to.
Remember, the agreement has to be between the landlord and tenant, not the representatives.
If I don’t have a property manager or a tenant advocate will I be disadvantaged?
Not at all. The conciliators will ensure everyone is heard and the process is fair.
What if I don’t feel safe to participate in a conciliation with the other person?
Please tell the conciliator about any concerns you have about your safety in the pre-conciliation call. This will help them understand your concerns and ensure there are appropriate safeguards in place.
If you don’t feel safe due to family and domestic violence in your tenancy, visit our Safe Tenancy WA page to understand your options and access information about services that can help you.
Please read all information on this page before submitting an application. If you have any questions, call Consumer Protection on 1300 304 054 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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