Residential tenancies - COVID-19 response

COVID-19 rent laws extended

The State Government has extended the emergency period under the Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020 (the Act) until 28 March 2021. This means that the existing laws, including the moratorium on rent increases and some termination of tenancies will stay in place until this date. See the announcement: COVID-19 residential rent laws extended for six months.

Following the extension, the Real Estate Institute of WA launched a campaign encouraging rental property owners to write to the State Government requesting a review of the Act. Read Commerce Minister John Quigley’s letter in response.

Consumer Protection has launched a new telephone advice service to assist landlords dealing with COVID-19 residential rent laws issues. This dedicated helpline will provide individualised guidance to landlords, connecting them with experts to answer questions and explore options in relation to managing tenancies during the emergency period, which runs until 28 March 2021. The hotline is open Monday to Wednesday and Friday between 8.30am–5pm and Thursday 9am–5pm. 

Landlord hotline logo
Landlord hotline logo, by Consumer Protection
 

 

The Commissioner for Consumer Protection has updated advice about your renting rights and responsibilities during the extended COVID-19 rent laws period. The frequently asked questions below address residential tenancy issues and how they are covered by legislation. 

Topic categories:

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.


Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme

The State Government is making available $30 million for grants of up to $2,000 to landlords for Western Australian residential renters who lost their jobs on or after 20 March 2020 (this eligibility criterion also includes people who have had a reduction of 75 per cent or more of their after-tax income, and includes if they are self-employed, a sole trader, a casual worker or a contractor) and are facing financial hardship due to the COVID -19 pandemic.

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

About COVID-19 rent laws

What is the emergency period?

The emergency period is now 30 March 2020 to 28 March 2021. However the government may change the end date to be earlier or later, depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic

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

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

Renters can still have their leases terminated and be evicted if they are causing serious damage to the property, posing a threat to the landlord or neighbours, not paying rent when they are not in financial hardship due to 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 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 needs to move back into their rental property 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 emergency period. However, if agreement cannot be reached, the landlord and renter will be required to participate in a mandatory conciliation session facilitated by Consumer Protection. This conciliation process aims to relieve pressure on the Magistrates Court and State Administrative Tribunal. 

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:

  • 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 defer rent payments to a particular date or for a particular period. While deferment removes the immediate pressure to pay rent, it means a renter will have to repay the amount owing once the deferment period ends. Make sure the rent repayment agreement details 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 can terminate a fixed-term tenancy without incurring break lease fees and charges 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 their employer or former employer, to avoid any disputes.

To terminate either a periodic or 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 seven 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 break lease fees. 

See more information on:

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

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 assist renters, 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 who can afford to continue to pay rent must keep paying rent. 

Renters and landlords should attempt to come to a mutual agreement about any rent reductions and any repayment requirement. The Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service has been established to help landlords and renters reach agreement.

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.

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.

Information for landlords

Download the COVID-19 residential tenancies emergency period extension - landlord fact sheet for all the facts and options at your fingertips.

Subscribe to our Landlords bulletin for the latest reminders, news and law updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Termination of agreements

My renter was in rent arrears prior to the moratorium on evictions. What can I do?

Unless you started the termination process for non-payment of rent before 30 March 2020 the COVID rent laws will apply. Contact the Landlord Hotline on 1300 304 054 for further advice.

I have issued my renters a notice of termination for a date after 29 September 2020. Can I continue with termination of the tenancy agreement on this date?

If it is because you have entered into a contract of sale, and you have a periodic agreement with the tenant and it is a condition of sale that the property is vacant, then you can issue the tenant with a notice of termination. If at the time of the sale, you have a fixed-term agreement with the tenant, then, as has always been the case, the tenancy agreement cannot be terminated, and the purchaser becomes the new landlord.

If the property is no longer inhabitable, the termination can proceed. If you issued a section 19 remedial notice (Section 19 Remedial Notice flowchart), this can also proceed.

All other notices are not enforceable until after 28 March 2021.

If you issued your tenant a Form 1A, 1B or 1C for a reason not listed above, you cannot require a vacant possession on the date specified in the notice.

The date for vacant possession for any other notice you have issued will now automatically be 29 March 2021. To avoid confusion or disputes let the renter know about this date change. For further information call the Landlord Hotline on 1300 304 054.

The date for vacant possession for any notice you have issued will now automatically be 29 March 2021. To avoid confusion or disputes, let the renter know about this date change.

Do I have to withdraw the notice of termination I have already given my renter?

No. The date for vacant possession for any notice you have issued will now automatically be 29 March 2021. To avoid confusion or disputes, let the renter know about this date change.

Do I have to issue a new notice of termination at the end of the emergency period on 28 March 2021?

No. The date for vacant possession for any notice you have issued will now automatically be 29 March 2021. To avoid confusion or disputes, let the renter know about this date change.

I have a binding order through mandatory conciliation in which the renter has agreed to move out after 29 September 2020. Now that the emergency period has been extended, does that mean the renter can stay?

If the renter has agreed to move out by a particular date and that agreement has been made into a binding order of the Commissioner, the renter still must leave. If the renter does not vacate the premises as agreed, you can lodge an application with the Magistrates Court (or SAT if it is a residential park dispute).

My renter is still not paying rent and is not COVID-19 affected. What can I do?

If the renter has failed to pay their rent under the agreement and they are not in financial hardship due to COVID-19, you can serve them a section 19 Remedial Notice.

After you have issued the notice, you need to apply to the Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service which will require the renter to participate in conciliation with you. If they do not enter into an agreement and fail to cooperate with the conciliation process within 60 days of the notice, you can apply to the court to terminate the tenancy agreement.

My renter has lost most of their income and has not been paying their rent. Can I evict them for not paying their rent?

If the renter is experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 and they are in rent arrears, you should try to negotiate a rent repayment agreement with them. You and the renter may wish to view the Consumer Protection Guidelines for rent repayment agreements and Optional rent repayment agreement template for information about negotiating a rent repayment agreement.

The Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service can help you and the renter reach an agreement.

If the renter refuses to engage in an agreement serve them a section 14 Rent Default Notice and the termination date can be the day after the emergency period. If you enter into an agreement with the tenant and the tenant fails to stick to the agreement you can take the tenant to court. For further information call the Landlord Hotline on 1300 304 054.

The renter may be eligible for the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme. The grant is the equivalent of four weeks' rent up to $2000. This money is paid directly to the landlord to assist with cash flow. If you think the renter might be eligible for the grant you are encouraged to discuss this with them. 

My renter had lost their job but they are now working again. They are still in rent arrears, can I evict them?

No. You are encouraged to contact the renter and ask them to enter into a rent repayment agreement so that you know how and when they will pay the rent arrears.

You can make an application to the Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service for help conciliating a rent repayment agreement with the renter. If you reach agreement, the rent repayment agreement can be made into a binding order of the Commissioner. If the renter does not stick to the terms of the binding order, you can apply to the court.

I am in hardship. Can I evict my renter so that I can move back into the property myself?

You can apply to the court for an order terminating the tenancy agreement on the grounds of hardship.

Another option is to ask the renter if they are willing to vacate the premises early. If you need help working this out, contact the Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service.

Rent increases

I issued my renter a notice that their rent is going to be increased after 29 September 2020. Can I proceed with the rent increase?

No. You cannot increase the rent until after 28 March 2021. If you issued a notice during the emergency period the rent increase date will automatically be 29 March 2021. To avoid confusion or disputes, let the renter know about this date change.

If you or your property manager have already collected the increased rent amount and a bond top-up amount, there’s no need to panic.  It is suggested that you or your property manager have a conversation with the tenant to seek their approval to either:

  • return all increased moneys received (including the bond top-up amount) directly to the tenant; or
  • apply all increased moneys received (including the bond top-up amount) to rent in advance or applied towards deferred rent or rent arrears (as the tenant thinks best). 

If landlords or property managers set things right, then there is no need to worry that you’ve broken the law.  

However, landlords cannot decide this on their own, or chose to do nothing without falling afoul of the new legislation and risk enforcement action being taken against them. 

If I want the rent to increase from 29 March 2021, do I have to issue another rent increase notice to my renter?

If you issued a notice during the emergency period the rent increase date will automatically be 29 March 2021. To avoid confusion or disputes, let the renter know about this date change.

My renter's fixed-term agreement is due to expire. Can I increase the rent if they sign a new fixed-term agreement for the premises?

You cannot increase the rent during the emergency period with an existing renter. This includes when the renter's fixed-term agreement ends and you either enter into another fixed-term agreement or a periodic agreement with the same renter.

I issued my renter a notice of rent increase and they have already paid the increased amount. Do I have to refund the difference?

You cannot keep the difference but you don’t have to refund this amount to the renter if the tenancy is ongoing. You must credit the amount to future rent owing.

If the tenancy has ended you should refund the tenant the increased rent amount paid during the emergency period.

My renter has left the property and I am going to re-let it. Can I lease the property at a higher rent?

Yes. There is no restriction on the amount of rent you charge for a property if you are leasing to a new renter.

Rent reductions

Can I ask my 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 hardship due to COVID-19.

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

You cannot provide any financial advice regarding early access to superannuation. 

If the renter has lost their job since 20 March 2020 (this eligibility criterion also includes a reduction of 75 per cent or more of their after-tax income, and includes if they are self-employed, a sole trader, a casual worker or a contractor) due to the impact of COVID-19, they may be eligible to apply to the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme for assistance. Discuss this option with them. 

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

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

What happens to my landlord insurance if rent is reduced?

Check your policy's terms and conditions and contact your insurance provider to clarify your rights.

Rental default is usually an optional extra that comes with an additional premium, so you need to check whether you have paid for this coverage. 

Seek legal advice if you have concerns. Complaints against insurers can be lodged with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

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

Many financial institutions are offering assistance to mortgage holders during the COVID-19 emergency. Contact your lender to find out what is available.

If the renter has lost their job since 20 March 2020 (this eligibility criterion also includes a reduction of 75 per cent or more of their after-tax income, and includes if they are self-employed, a sole trader, a casual worker or a contractor) due to COVID-19, they may be eligible for a grant of four weeks' rent up to $2,000 to help with payments. Discuss the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme with them.

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.

Access to property

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

During the emergency period, you are not required to do ordinary repairs if:

  • you can’t afford to due to COVID-19 financial hardship, or
  • you can’t access the premises because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Urgent repairs still need to be completed.

What if I can’t pay for urgent repairs?

Ask the renter if they can pay for the urgent repairs now and you will reimburse them once your financial situation improves.

If you do nothing, the renter is allowed to organise urgent repairs and may seek reimbursement from you. 

Can I sell my rental home during the pandemic?

Yes.

In cases where a renter is in self-isolation, the 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 for access to the property continue to apply.

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 property for a valuation. What are our options?

If the renters are in self-isolation, the valuer will not be able to access the property and the inspection will need to be deferred. Have a conversation with the lending institution as they may be able to provide a valuation without physically inspecting the premises.

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

Otherwise, 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 present during the valuation. The renters may have particular requirements, and ensuring the valuer is willing to comply with these requirements may facilitate the inspection.

Information for renters

Subscribe to our Tenants bulletin for the latest reminders, news and law updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Eviction and termination

Can the landlord lock me out of my rental home?

No. This is illegal. Contact Consumer Protection for more information. 

My landlord recently issued a termination notice that says I have to vacate the property. Do I have to move out?

It depends on the reason given for the termination notice.

Where you have been issued with a Form 1C Notice of termination the termination can proceed if:

  • you have a periodic agreement and the notice was given because the premises have been sold and it is a condition of sale that the property is vacant then you can be provided with 30 days notice to vacate; and
  • If the property is no longer habitable

If you have been issued a section 19 remedial notice (Section 19 Remedial Notice flowchart), the termination can be enforced.

All other notices are not enforceable until after 28 March 2021.

Your landlord cannot terminate your tenancy agreement during the emergency period without a court order.  

If your landlord has applied to the court to terminate the tenancy agreement you should attend the court hearing to explain your circumstances. If you need a tenant advocate, Tenancy WA can help you find your local service provider.

If you have received a termination notice or notice of a court date, the Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service may be able to help resolve any disputes with the landlord.

My landlord is trying to pressure me to terminate the tenancy agreement. What can I do?

You do not have to terminate the agreement. If you are behind in rent you should negotiate a rent repayment agreement with the landlord. The Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service can help.

My fixed-term agreement is due to expire soon. Do I have to move out?

No. Any fixed-term tenancy agreement that expires during the emergency period continues as a periodic tenancy unless you both agree to another fixed-term period.

I have lost some or all of my work hours and I can’t afford my rent. Can I terminate my fixed-term tenancy?

If you are in financial hardship because of COVID-19, you can terminate your tenancy by giving the landlord 21 days' written notice, even if you have a fixed-term agreement. You do not have to pay any break lease costs.

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

If you have a periodic tenancy agreement, you must give the landlord at least 21 days’ written notice that you need to terminate. If you have a fixed-term tenancy agreement, you may need to go to court to seek an order to terminate on the grounds of undue hardship. You must continue to pay rent to the end of the notice period and are responsible for repairing property damage.

Can I terminate my lease during the emergency period if I am not in financial hardship due to COVID-19?

If you have a periodic lease, you can give the landlord 21 days’ written notice to terminate. 

If you wish to terminate a fixed-term lease early, you must reach agreement in writing with your landlord. You may have to pay break lease costs. 

Rent increases

My landlord has given me notice that my rent will increase after 29 September 2020. Do I have to pay the increased rent?

No. If you received a notice during the emergency period the rent increase date will automatically be 29 March 2021. 

My landlord gave a notice of rent increase and I have started paying the higher amount. Can I ask for a refund?

No. The difference you have paid will be credited to future rent payments.

Rent decreases

I have lost some or all of my work hours and I can’t afford my rent. Can I ask my landlord to reduce my rent?

If you are in financial hardship because of COVID-19, contact your landlord to negotiate a rent repayment agreement. You can ask the landlord to reduce the rent but they don't have to agree.

Before contacting your landlord know what you can afford to pay and when you might be able to pay rent arrears. A financial counsellor can help you prepare a budget free of charge.

You and your landlord may wish to view the Consumer Protection Guidelines for rent repayment agreements and Optional rent repayment agreement template for information about negotiating a rent repayment agreement.

The Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service is a free and impartial service that can help you negotiate a rent repayment agreement. 

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?

Yes, the cost of utilities and any other relevant expenses can be included in the rent repayment agreement provided all parties agree. 

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

Your landlord cannot make you access your superannuation. It may be useful to read what the Australian Securities and Investment Commission has to say. 

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

If you have lost your job since 20 March 2020 (this eligibility criterion also includes a reduction of 75 per cent or more of your after-tax income, and includes if you are self-employed, a sole trader, a casual worker or a contractor) due to the impact of COVID-19 you may be eligible for assistance of four weeks' rent up to a maximum of $2,000 through the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme.

Access to property

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

Advise your landlord if you are self-isolating, especially if the landlord plans to visit or enter the property. During self-isolation, only essential service providers or members of the household should enter the home. 
 

Repairs and maintenance

The rental property needs repairs but the landlord is not doing them. What can I do?

If a landlord is in financial hardship due to COVID-19 they do not have to do ordinary repairs during the emergency period. They do still need to pay for emergency and urgent repairs.

If you are not sure if your landlord is in financial hardship due to COVID-19 the Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service can help you negotiate with the landlord about how and when the repairs can be completed.

My landlord wants to do some repairs or maintenance and I am in self-isolation. What happens?

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

If you are practising social distancing, negotiate a suitable arrangement with the landlord. For example, you may be able to sit in the backyard while the repairer is in the home.

Required notice periods for access to the premises still apply.

Family and domestic violence

If I'm at risk of family and domestic violence (FDV) during the emergency period what can I do?

If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

The FDV provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 and the Residential Parks (Long-stay Tenants) Act 2006 are in effect and 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 304 054 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.

Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service

The Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service was introduced by the WA Government to help landlords and renters reach agreement about COVID-19 renting disputes without going to court. 

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

We can't reach agreement about our COVID-19 rent dispute. Can this service help us?

Yes. Consumer Protection's free Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service, brings landlords and renters together for an informal discussion to help them reach a fair and achievable solution that works for everyone.

Call 1300 304 054 or apply online.

For further advice and assistance

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

Renters may contact Tenancy WA on (08) 9221 0088 or for country callers 1800 621 888.

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

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