Residential tenancies - COVID-19 response

The Commissioner for Consumer Protection has issued some advice about your renting rights and responsibilities during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The frequently asked questions below address residential tenancy issues and how they are covered by legislation. This information will be updated regularly as new guidance is available.

Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service

The 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. 

Visit the COVID-19 Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service page for details and to make a submission. 

Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme

The State Government is making available $30 million for grants of up to $2,000 for Western Australian residential tenants who lost their jobs on or after 20 March 2020 and are facing financial hardship due to the COVID -19 pandemic.

Visit the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme page for details and to apply. 

Terms we use on this page

  • Landlord = lessors, property managers, owners, park operators, and providers of boarding and lodging accommodation.
  • Renter = all tenants in private rental homes, public, social, community and government officer housing; long-stay residents in residential parks; and boarders and lodgers.

Topic categories:


 

New legislation

How are WA landlords and renters affected by a moratorium on evictions?

The Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020 puts into place a six-month moratorium on evictions and other measures relating to residential tenancies to address the financial impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Renters can still have their leases terminated and be evicted if they are causing damage to the property, posing a threat to the landlord or neighbours, not paying rent when they are not financially affected by COVID-19, refusing to make a rent payment agreement with their landlord or if they abandon the property. Provisions supporting victims of family and domestic violence also continue to apply.

Other elements of the new laws include:

  • a ban on rent increases during the moratorium period;
  • fixed-term tenancies will automatically convert to periodic tenancies if they expire during the period unless another fixed-term agreement is entered into;
  • landlords do not have to carry out non-urgent repairs if they themselves are experiencing financial hardship or are not able to access the premises due to restrictions on movement; and
  • renters experiencing COVID-19 related financial hardship who end a fixed-term tenancy prior to its end date will not incur break lease fees, but will still be liable for damage and rent arrears. 

The laws apply to all residential tenancies including those in public and government housing, park homes as well as boarders and lodgers.

Landlords or renters who are experiencing undue hardship can apply to the Magistrates Court or State Administrative Tribunal to have the tenancy agreement terminated. For example, a landlord who loses their job and wants to make their rental property a primary residence can still apply to the court.

Affected landlords and renters are urged to negotiate an agreement about when rent will be paid in a bid to preserve the tenancy during the six-month period. However, if agreement cannot be reached, the landlord and renter will be required to participate in a mandatory conciliation requirement facilitated by the Commissioner for Consumer Protection. This conciliation process aims to relieve pressure on the Magistrates Court and State Administrative Tribunal. The Commissioner for Consumer Protection is urgently establishing the new mandatory conciliation process by developing the necessary forms and other procedures.  This is expected to take 4-6 weeks.

The moratorium period is defined as starting from March 30, 2020 and can be reduced or extended by regulations to deal with changing circumstances.

In the meantime, you can access Consumer Protection's free informal voluntary conciliation service now by phoning 1300 304 054 or by email at consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au

What is the emergency period?

The emergency period is 30 March 2020 to 29 September 2020. However the government may change the end date to be earlier or later, depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic

Can rent be increased during the emergency period?

No. Rent cannot be increased during the emergency period even if a new agreement has been negotiated.

Where rent is calculated by reference to income, rent can increase if there has been an increase in income as long as the method of calculating rent does not change.  Rent cannot be increased due to a change in the method of calculating your rent.

Where a renter and a landlord agree to a rent reduction due to financial hardship during the emergency period, the rent may be increased during the emergency period to no more than the amount that it was prior to the rent reduction agreement being made, provided both the renter and the landlord agree.

What happens when a fixed-term tenancy agreement finishes during the emergency period?

A fixed-term tenancy agreement that ends during the emergency period will continue as a periodic tenancy unless the renter and landlord enter into a new fixed-term agreement or the renter terminates the agreement.  If a new fixed-term agreement is entered into, it cannot require the renter to pay more rent than the previous lease.

A renter who does not wish to continue the tenancy agreement is required to provide the landlord with 21 days’ notice in writing prior to the end of the lease.

What happens after the emergency period finishes?

Some provisions of the Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020, like a ban on rent increases, will end the day after the end of the emergency period. Other provisions like repayment arrangements will continue for three months beyond the end of the emergency period.

The information on the Consumer Protection website will continue to be updated throughout the emergency period.

You can contact Consumer Protection for information about your specific situation by calling 1300 304 054 or via email to consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au.

Financial hardship

What are renters’ rights and responsibilities if they can’t afford to pay rent due to the impact of COVID-19?

Renters – including tenants, long-stay residents in residential parks, boarders and lodgers – experiencing difficulty paying rent due to financial hardship caused by COVID-19 should contact their landlord as soon as possible.

Renters and landlords are encouraged to be open about their situation and explore possibilities to get through this crisis together. Options for discussion include whether the tenancy or accommodation agreement can be varied to provide:

  • deferring rent payments to a specified later date when the renter’s income improves;
  • a decrease in rent for a specified period; or
  • terminating the lease without penalty.

Any agreement to change rent arrangements should be put in writing.

Deferment of rent: Landlords may be willing to agree to suspend rent payments to a particular date or for a particular period. While a rent-free period removes the immediate pressure to pay rent, it means a renter will have to repay the amount owing once the suspension period ends. Make sure you set out in your rent repayment agreement details of how the renter will repay the rent owed to the landlord. Importantly, the landlord cannot ask the renter to pay interest on the rent owed.

Decrease in rent: Landlords may agree to decrease rent for a specific period of time. Again, record this in writing and if the rent increases during the COVID-19 emergency period it cannot be more than the original rate and only if the landlord and renter agree.

Terminate the lease: If no other options are available, a renter may consider terminating a periodic (open-ended) lease. A renter may only terminate a fixed-term tenancy if they are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. It's recommended that renters consider giving the landlord proof of financial hardship such as a letter from the renter’s employer or former employer, as landlords may request this.

To terminate either a periodic tenancy or a fixed-term tenancy, a renter is required to give the landlord at least 21 days' notice in writing before the intended end date. The notice period to terminate accommodation agreements is 7 days. If a renter terminates a fixed-term tenancy or accommodation agreement prior to its end date for reasons of financial hardship due to COVID-19, the landlord is not entitled to compensation because the agreement was terminated early. 

See more information on:

For information about income assistance for anyone impacted by COVID-19 coronavirus, visit the Department of Treasury.

Can a renter ask to reduce their rent payments?

Renters should discuss their financial circumstances with their landlord at the earliest opportunity and try to come to a compromise on rent payable; this could include a reduction to the amount paid for a period of time.

We suggest that the situation is regularly reviewed.

I rent in a strata complex and am financially affected by COVID-19. Can I negotiate the cost of utilities in a rent repayment agreement?

Landlords and tenants can include the cost of utilities and any other relevant expenses in the rent repayment agreement provided all parties agree. It is a good idea for agreements to cover as many of the issues as possible that may be causing hardship, to avoid disputes in the future.

Can renters who are not financially affected by COVID-19 refuse to pay rent during the six-month emergency period?

Renters who can afford to pay their rent must continue to pay rent during the six-month emergency period.

Consumer Protection recommends landlords negotiate with renters to come to an agreement about rent payments. If an agreement cannot be reached or a renter refuses to pay rent landlords should contact Consumer Protection for information about conciliation services and termination of agreements.

Landlords suffering financially because of renters’ refusal to pay rent should contact their financial institution about options such as mortgage relief.

Can a landlord ask a renter to provide proof of financial hardship such as bank records, superannuation statements or a letter from their employer?

The moratorium on evictions is for renters who are unable to pay their rent because of financial distress due to COVID-19.

It’s reasonable for a landlord to ask for evidence of a significant decrease in wages or job loss. Appropriate evidence could include emails, letters or other communication between an employee and employer during the COVID-19 crisis. It is not reasonable for a landlord to ask for evidence of savings or spending habits by demanding bank or superannuation statements.

A landlord should not provide any financial advice regarding superannuation. The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has advice on this and how to report misconduct by a landlord.

If your renter has lost their job since 20 March 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19, they may be eligible to apply to the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme for assistance. 

For advice or assistance if you are suffering financial stress contact:

Contact Consumer Protection at 1300 304 054 if you need further information.

My income has decreased and I am unable to pay my rent at this time. My landlord is telling me
I have to access my superannuation to pay my rent. What are my rights?

Your landlord should not provide you with any financial advice regarding your superannuation. There are many issues when considering your superannuation options and it may be useful to read what the Australian Securities and Investment Commission has to say. You may also wish to refer your landlord to this information.

If you are suffering financial stress contact the Financial Counsellors Association of WA.

If you have lost your job since 20 March 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19 you may be eligible for assistance of up to four weeks' rent to a maximum of $2,000 through the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme.

Does a renter have to repay missed rent payments to the landlord?

A renter is responsible for any rent payable under a residential tenancy agreement unless the renter and the landlord agree otherwise. Landlords are encouraged to consider whether they can support tenants, if they can afford to do so, by either reducing the rent for a period of time or waiving part of the rent arrears.

Landlords and renters will need to agree on how any rent arrears are going to be paid and when.

Renters and landlords should attempt to come to a mutual agreement about any rent reductions and any repayment requirement. Any agreement should be put in writing.

Renters who can afford to continue to pay rent should keep paying rent, to avoid building up a debt.

What happens to landlord's insurance if rent is reduced?

Landlords should check the terms and conditions their policy and contact their insurance policy to clairify their rights.

Note, rental default is usually an optional extra that comes with an additional premium, so landlords will need to check whether they have paid for this coverage. 

Landlords with concerns should seek legal adivce. Complaints against insurers can be lodged with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

What if a landlord can’t afford to receive less rent because they have a mortgage to pay?

Landlords and renters are encouraged to work together to help manage their way through this difficult time. Many financial institutions are offering relief to mortgage holders during the COVID-19 emergency. Landlords should consider contacting their lender to find out what relief can be provided.

If your renter has lost their job since 20 March 2020 due to COVID-19, they may be eligible for a grant of four weeks' rent up to a maximum of $2,000 to assist to meet any shortfall in payments. Renters cannot be forced to apply, however landlords and agents are encouraged to talk with them about the grant and respectfully request they submit an application to the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme.

It may also help to speak to a financial counsellor. The Financial Counsellors Association of Western Australia provides free advice to Western Australians in financial distress.

How do we deal with rent arrears prior to the moratorium on evictions?

Any termination process due to non-payment of rent that started before 30 March 2020 can continue. Breach or termination processes that started on or after 30 March 2020 are subject to the terms of the Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020.

The court or tribunal may amend their advice in relation to hearings for eviction orders during COVID-19, so check their websites for updates. 

Family and domestic violence

What options are there for renters at increased risk of family and domestic violence (FDV) during the emergency period?

During the emergency period the FDV provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 and the Residential Parks (Long-stay Tenants) Act 2006 are in effect and will also apply to boarders and lodgers. Changes have been made to the application process for restraining orders

For information about how to end a tenancy because of FDV visit Safe Tenancy WA.

For further advice and assistance contact Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or by email to consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au.

You can also contact Tenancy WA on (08) 9221 008 or, for country callers 1800 621 888 and leave a message with your name and best contact details.  A member of the Tenancy WA advice line team will retrieve your message and arrange for a staff member to return your call to arrange an appointment.

Eviction and termination

Can a renter be evicted from a private rental home, park home or lodgings during the emergency period?

Only in limited circumstances. Renters cannot be evicted for not paying rent if they cannot afford to due to COVID-19. Renters not affected by the financial impacts of COVID-19 can be evicted for choosing to stop paying rent and refusing to talk to the landlord about how rent arrears are going to be paid.

Renters can also be evicted during the emergency period if:

  • a court or tribunal ordered termination of a rental agreement before 30 March 2020;
  • the renter or another person allowed to live in the premises:
    • is causing damage, including to any shared areas or facilities, or
    • has caused injury to the landlord/agent or any other person including neighbours and the landlord/agent has obtained a court order terminating the agreement;
  • the landlord is suffering hardship and has obtained a court order terminating the agreement.  An example of the landlord suffering hardship could be if the landlord has lost their job and needs to move back into the premises. In this circumstance, a renter may be able to seek compensation orders from the court for any additional expenses caused by the termination of the agreement. Expenses can include relocation costs.

Note, renters cannot be evicted during the emergency period if a lender repossesses the property or if a fixed-term lease or accommodation agreement comes to an end.

IMPORTANT: A landlord/agent cannot evict a renter without consent or a court order. Contact Consumer Protection on 1300 304 054 or at tenancyhelp@dmirs.wa.gov.au for advice.

I have previously fallen behind in my rent and currently am in rent arrears. The landlord is taking me to court to evict me, what are my rights?

If your landlord has taken action to terminate your tenancy prior to 30 March 2020, including serving you with a termination notice, or made an application to the Magistrates Court or the State Administrative Tribunal, that process can continue and you can be evicted.

If you receive notice of a hearing you should immediately contact Tenancy WA, Legal Aid or your local Community Legal Centre for assistance. 

You can also contact Consumer Protection on 1300 304 054 or by email to tenancyhelp@dmirs.wa.gov.au for advice or assistance through the Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service

I am a landlord and need to move back into my property that is leased. Can I terminate the agreement?

Yes, you can apply to a court to terminate on grounds of undue hardship. Please note the court could award compensation to your renters for early termination of the agreement.

I need to leave Australia due to COVID-19, how do I end my tenancy?

If you are leaving Australia due to COVID-19 and you have a periodic tenancy agreement, you must give the landlord at least 21 days’ notice, in writing, of your intention to terminate the tenancy. If your tenancy agreement is for a fixed term, you may need to go to court to seek an order to terminate the agreement on the grounds of undue hardship. You must continue to pay rent to the end of the notice period and are responsible for making good any damage to the property.

My landlord has issued a termination notice, do I have to move out?

No.  There are only two ways a tenancy agreement can be terminated:

  • by agreement between the renter and the landlord; or
  • by court order.

Can a landlord lock a renter out of the rental home?

A landlord locking a renter out of a rental home is illegal. The police can be called and if social distancing rules are being breached this could result in an on-the-spot fine.

A renter can also contact Consumer Protection who can advise the landlord of the significant penalties they can face in these circumstances.

Can a renter terminate a lease during the emergency period if they are not financially impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic?

Where a renter has a periodic lease, it can be terminated during the emergency period by providing 21 days’ notice in writing to the landlord and delivering vacant possession of the premises at the end of the notice period.

Where a renter has a fixed-term lease, it can only be terminated without incurring break lease costs if the renter is suffering financial hardship caused by the economic effects of COVID-19.

Where a renter is not suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19 and wishes to terminate a fixed-term lease early, agreement needs to be reached between the renter and the landlord. This should be put in writing including any break lease costs which are negotiated. 

My tenant has not paid all of their rent during the COVID-19 period. What action can I take?

If your tenant has failed to pay all or some rent during the emergency period and is experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19, you can issue your tenant a rent default notice. The termination date in the notice cannot be a day during the emergency period. See landlord flowchart A for guidance with this process. 
 
If your tenant has failed to pay rent and is not experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19, you can issue your tenant a remedial notice. This remedial notice requires your tenant to either pay the rent or engage in a rent repayment agreement with you within 60 days. If after 60 days your tenant has not paid their rent or entered into a rent repayment agreement, you can make an application to the Magistrates Court to terminate the tenancy agreement.  See landlord flowchart B for more information.
 

Reaching an agreement

We've tried but can’t agree. Where can renters and landlords access help to reach an agreement?

Consumer Protection's free COVID-19 Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service helps tenants and landlords to reach agreement. Through this service, a Consumer Protection conciliator facilitates an informal discussion between a landlord and tenant about a rental issue that arose during the emergency period. The goal is to help them reach a fair and achievable solution that works for everyone.

Call 1300 304 054 or email tenancyhelp@dmirs.wa.gov.au.

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.

Visit the State Law Publisher website to read the dispute resolution provisions of the Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020.

What can I do if I believe I am suffering COVID-19 related financial hardship, but my landlord won’t accept this?

If you are struggling financially and think it’s a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but your landlord does not agree, contact Consumer Protection about engaging in our Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation service to enter into a rent repayment agreement.

Access to property

I'm a renter in self-isolation, who do I need to tell and how will this affect inspections?

You should advise your landlord if you are self-isolating, especially if the landlord plans to visit or enter the property. During self-isolation, only identified essential service providers or members of the household should enter the home. 
 
You should also make sure any other renters, housemates, flatmates or visitors are aware of the situation and what arrangements need to be made.
 

Can a landlord sell the rental home during the pandemic?

A landlord should seek advice from a real estate agent and public health and government advice needs to be followed, when trying to sell homes during the COVID-19 emergency period.

In the current climate property viewings should be done by photos and videos as much as possible. On-site viewings should involve no more than 10 people in the premises at a time, ensuring at least 4 square metres of space for each person.

The person conducting the viewing is responsible for keeping a written register which includes the place, date and time of the inspection along with the name, residential address, email address and contact telephone number of each person who attends. The person conducting the viewing is also responsible for ensuring that alcohol hand rub is available at each entrance and exit, and encourages those attending to wash their hands with the sanitiser when they enter and exit the property.

A prospective buyer should not touch anything and at the end of the viewing, surfaces and doorknobs should be wiped down by the salesperson.

In cases where a renter is in self-isolation, a renter may be asked to supply photos and videos of the property, because the person seeking to conduct the viewing cannot enter the property.

Required notice periods continue to apply during the COVID-19 emergency period.

We have made an offer to buy a property that is currently leased. The renters are worried about COVID-19 and are not allowing access to the premises for a valuation. What are our options?

The requirements in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including activities within residential properties, were changed on Sunday 26 April 2020.

If a valuer wishes to access the property, the current owner should negotiate a suitable time with the renters and provide adequate notice in writing. The renters are entitled to be on the premises during the valuation. If the renters are in self-isolation, the valuer will not be able to access the premises and the inspection will need to be deferred until later. Have a conversation with the lending institution. Valuers may be able to provide a valuation without physically inspecting the premises.

Any person entering tenanted premises should take appropriate measures to protect the health of the residents, including using hand sanitiser and complying with any other health measures in effect. The renters may have particular requirements, and ensuring the valuer is willing to comply with these requirements may facilitate the inspection.

If renters are practicing increased social distancing due to being at greater risk of infection, this should be respected by deferring the inspection to a later time.

Repairs

What happens if a landlord wants to do some repairs or maintenance and the renter is in self-isolation?

During self-isolation, only identified essential service providers or members of the household should enter a home. 

Where a renter is practising social distancing they should assist the landlord to undertake necessary repairs to the property by providing access while at the same time limiting the number of people in the home to not more than 10 people with ensuring at least 4 square metres of space for each person. It is in renters’ interests to assist the landlord to undertake repairs and they should negotiate a suitable arrangement with the landlord. For example, a renter may be able to sit in the backyard while the repairer is in the home.

Renters should ensure appropriate hygiene measures are taken by anyone visiting. Tradespeople should minimise touching anything not connected with the repair and use an alcohol hand rub when they enter and exit the premises. Renters should discuss expectations with the landlord.

Required notice periods continue to apply during the COVID-19 emergency period.

My renter has requested some non-urgent repairs but I can’t afford to pay. What can I do?

During the six-month emergency period, you are not required to maintain the premises as per the maintenance terms if:

  • you can’t afford to do so due to financial hardship caused by COVID-19, or
  • you can’t access the premises for reasons resulting from COVID-19.

However, if urgent repairs are required, these still need to be completed.

What if I can’t pay for urgent repairs?

If you are in a financial position where you can’t afford urgent repairs, speak with your financial institution.

Alternatively, speak to your renter to find out if they can pay for the repairs on the basis that you will reimburse them once your financial situation improves.

If you do nothing, the renter is allowed to organise urgent repairs and may be allowed to get compensation from you for reasonable expenses incurred.

For further advice and assistance

Contact the Consumer Protection Contact Centre on 1300 304 054 or by email to consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au.

Tenants may contact Tenancy WA on (08) 9221 0088 or for county callers 1800 621 888 and leave a message with your name, and best contact details. A member of the advice line team will retrieve your message and arrange for a staff member to return your call to arrange an appointment.

For COVID-19 information related to other consumer issues visit our COVID-19 coronavirus Consumer Protection FAQ

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