Residential tenancies - COVID-19 response
What the end of the emergency period means for tenants and landlords
The extended COVID-19 emergency period has ended, which means the ordinary tenancy laws under the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (WA) apply again.
Landlords and tenants are encouraged to act and negotiate in good faith to agree on reasonable and workable tenancy arrangements, helping to create a safe and secure renting future for everyone.
Tenants are encouraged to contact Consumer Protection to seek advice and report unlawful evictions.
Consumer Protection has created a range of resources to help landlords and tenants with renting matters now the emergency period has ended:
- Future renting WA negotiating guide
- COVID-19 Ending a fixed-term tenancy agreement
- Ending a tenancy counting days flowcharts:
- Tenancy chart 1 - Service of notice of termination for fixed-term tenancy agreements
- Lessor chart 6 - Service of Notice of Termination for periodic tenancy agreements
- Tenant chart 4 – Service of Notice of Termination for periodic tenancy agreements
- Landlord COVID-19 Process A: Breach process if your COVID-19 affected tenant defaults on their rent
- Landlord COVID-19 Process B: Breach process if your tenant is not affected by COVID-19 and defaults on their rent
- COVID-19 What to do if a party does not comply with a binding order
- Homeless and emergency accommodation Western Australia
Circle Green Community Legal also has a series of helpful COVID-19 and renting fact sheets.
The frequently asked questions below address residential tenancy issues and how they are covered by returning to the ordinary legislation.
- Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme
- About COVID-19 rent laws
- Evictions and terminations
- Rent increases
- Rent arrears
- Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service
Terms we use on this page
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.
The Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme has expanded to offer future rent support for tenants who are struggling financially to meet an increase in rent payments now the emergency period has ended.
Rents arrears assistance grants are also still available to help tenants pay their outstanding rent debt that arose before 1 December 2020.
Visit the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme page for details and to apply.
When was the emergency period?
The emergency period was from 30 March 2020 to 28 March 2021.
How did the moratorium on evictions affect WA landlords and renters?
The Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020 put into place a moratorium on evictions and other measures relating to residential tenancies to address the financial impacts of COVID-19.
Renters could still have their leases terminated and be evicted if they were causing serious damage to the property, posing a threat to the landlord or neighbours, not paying rent when they were not in financial hardship due to COVID-19, refusing to make a rent payment agreement with their landlord or if they abandoned the property. Provisions supporting victims of family and domestic violence continued to apply.
Other elements of the laws included:
- a ban on rent increases during the moratorium period;
- fixed-term tenancies automatically converted to periodic tenancies if they expired during the period unless another fixed-term agreement was entered into;
- landlords did not have to carry out non-urgent repairs if they themselves were experiencing financial hardship or were not able to access the premises due to restrictions on movement; and
- renters experiencing COVID-19 related financial hardship who ended a fixed-term tenancy prior to its end date did not incur break lease fees, but were still liable for damage and rent arrears.
The laws applied to all residential tenancies including those in public and government housing, park homes as well as boarders and lodgers.
What happens now the emergency period has ended?
Some provisions of the Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020, like the ban on rent increases, ended the day after the emergency period finished. Other provisions, like repayment arrangements, could continue for 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Were tenants able to be evicted the day after the emergency period ended?
No. The process to end a tenancy is either-
- If a termination notice is given and the tenant moves out, then the tenancy ends.
- If a termination notice is given and a tenant does not vacate on that date, the landlord cannot forcibly remove the tenant from the property. The landlord must apply to the court for an order for vacant possession of the premises.
If tenants were on a periodic lease during the emergency period, they may have received a 60 day notice of termination with a vacate date of 29 March 2021.
If tenants were on a fixed-term lease that ended on 29 March 2021, and were correctly served 30 days’ notice, then needed to vacate their property on that date.
If tenants had a fixed-term tenancy ending on, or before 28 March 2021, they were unable to be issued with a notice of termination during the emergency period. They may have agreed with the landlord on another fixed-term, even for a short time, and then the tenancy will automatically have become periodic. If this has happened, they may have received a 60 day notice of termination with a vacate date of 29 March 2021 or later.
What if a tenant’s lease is terminated and they have nowhere to go?
If the landlord has given a notice of termination but the tenant has not left the premises on the due date, the landlord must apply to the court for an order terminating the tenancy agreement and an order for possession of the premises.
The Emergency Relief and Food Assistance Service (ERFRAS) is a good first option – this is a service provided by Anglicare which links people into emergency relief assistance, financial counselling and other community help. If you are in a crisis situation, Consumer Protection have a guide to help find an accommodation service that may be able to help
If you’re a tenant that needs an advocate to help, Circle Green Community Legal (the new home of Tenancy WA) can help you find your local service provider.
What if a tenant is refusing to leave?
From 29 March 2021 the normal residential tenancy laws were back in effect, so if a tenant does not vacate the premises under a notice of termination, the landlord must go to court for an order for vacant possession of the property.
The landlord needs to apply to the court for an order to terminate within 30 days from the day after the tenant should have vacated the property. How long it takes for the Magistrates Court to hear the case will depend on demand and could range from several weeks to several months.
When can a landlord increase the rent?
Landlords need to provide tenants at least 60 days’ notice of a rent increase by giving the tenant a notice of rent increase form 10. If served correctly 60 days before the end of the emergency period, the tenants would have needed to start paying the increase from 29 March 2021.
If it is a fixed-term tenancy, any proposed rent increase must comply with the terms of the agreement, so the rent was only able to be increased on or after 29 March 2021 if this was already written into the lease arrangement. If there is no rent increase included in the agreement, the landlord can increase the rent when the next fixed-term tenancy is negotiated.
For more on rent increases after the emergency period, see Circle Green Community Legal’s fact sheet about how rents can be increased.
Are there rent increase caps?
No, but if you are a tenant who has received a notice of increase in rent and you are concerned that the rent increase is excessive, you can apply to the Magistrate’s Court for a determination.
If a landlord and tenant agreed to reduce the rent during the emergency period, can it be returned to the original amount?
Yes, provided both the landlord and tenant agree to restoring the rent to the original amount and the landlord is not requiring the tenant to pay more than the original amount.
Under normal residential tenancy laws, when a rent increase is negotiated a tenant does not pay the higher amount of rent for the first 30 days. Does this 30 day period apply now the emergency period has ended?
This depends on when the new agreement was made – if it was more than 30 days before the end of the emergency period, the 30 days will have passed and the higher rate was payable from 29 March 2021.
However, if a tenant made a new agreement less than 30 days before the end of the emergency period and included a rent increase, the tenant is not required to pay higher rent until the 30 days have passed, which was after 28 March 2021.
If a tenant is facing a rent increase they can’t afford, is assistance available?
Yes, if you are a tenant experiencing financial hardship and the landlord is increasing the rent by a significant amount, you may be eligible for future rent support through the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme. There’s a simple two-minute test to assess eligibility.
If tenants are facing a significant rent increase, is there anything they can do?
Tenants and landlords should talk to each other and try to negotiate a rent increase that is reasonable for both. Landlords are encouraged to consider the benefits of building a long-term relationship with existing tenants who are known to be reliable, rather than take a risk with a new unknown tenant.
Landlords should also consider the cost of changing tenants, such as advertising expenses, property management and letting fees as well as the possibility of no rental income for a period of time. These costs may negate any benefit of a planned rent increase which a new tenant may also struggle to pay.
I sent my tenant a ‘Notice of rent increase’ in 2020 but the COVID-19 emergency period meant the increase did not apply until after 28 March 2021. Can I send them another Notice of rent increase now?
No. If the tenants commenced paying the increased rent amount after 28 March 2021 (the end of the emergency period) the rent cannot be increased again for a minimum of six (6) months. For example, if the tenants commenced paying the rent increase on 29 March 2021 the rent cannot be increased again until 29 September 2021.
If you had withdrawn the notice before the tenants paid the increase, you could have issued a new “Notice of rent increase” for a different amount.
If a tenant has rent arrears, is there any assistance available?
Yes, if rent arrears have accrued during the emergency period, tenants experiencing financial hardship can apply for a grant of 75 per cent of the debt, up to $4,000, paid directly to their landlord. In return, the landlord and tenant must agree to enter into a lease agreement for at least six months beyond 29 March 2021. Visit the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme page for more information.
What can a tenant do if they have a rent debt accrued during the emergency period?
Tenants are encouraged to talk with their landlord about a repayment plan. If an agreement cannot be reached, they can make an application to the Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service.
For tenants in financial hardship the Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme may be able to assist in paying 75 per cent, up to $4,000, of the rent arrears accrued during the emergency period.
If a landlord wants to take action in regards to a tenant’s rent arrears incurred during the emergency period, what is the process?
Landlords will need to initiate mandatory conciliation with the Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service.
If a landlord wants to take action in regards to a tenant’s rent arrears incurred during and continuing after the end of the emergency period, what is the process?
Landlords will need to initiate mandatory conciliation with the Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service (RTMCS) before applying for the case to be heard by the Magistrate’s Court. The court cannot make a termination order arising from a failure to pay rent during and continuing after the emergency period unless the parties have the necessary certifications from the RTMCS process.
If a landlord has a tenant in arrears which have been incurred after the emergency period ceases and wants to terminate, what should they do?
If the lease is periodic, the landlord should issue a no grounds termination.
If it is a fixed-term tenancy that is about to expire, the landlord can issue a 30 day notice of termination.
Or if the landlord does not want to wait until the lease expires and the tenant is in rent arrears, they should call the Landlord Hotline for advice on 1300 304 054
Can a tenant’s name be listed on a tenancy database if they have an outstanding rent debt that has accrued during the emergency period?
A landlord cannot add a tenant’s personal details to a residential tenancy database in relation to any rental arrears due to financial hardship caused by COVID-19 during the emergency period.
What happens if a tenant has a debt accrued during the emergency period and then continues to accumulate debt after the emergency period is over?
A landlord cannot add a tenant’s personal details to a residential tenancy database in relation to any rental arrears due to financial hardship caused by COVID-19 during the emergency period. However, any rental arrears accumulated after 28 March 2021 is subject to action under the normal provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (WA).
What happens if a tenant and landlord took part in mandatory conciliation and reached agreement formalised in a Binding Order of The Commissioner, but one of the parties is not complying?
If one of the parties does not comply with the binding order, either the landlord or the tenant named in the order can apply straight to the Magistrates Court (if it applies to a residential tenancies or accommodation agreement) or to the State Administrative Tribunal (if it relates to a long-stay agreement).
If I'm at risk of family and domestic violence (FDV) after 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 remain in effect and also apply to boarders and lodgers.
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 email@example.com.
You can also contact Circle Green Community Legal (the new home of Tenancy WA) on (08) 6148 3636 or, for country callers 1800 621 888.
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.
Call 1300 304 054 or visit the Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service page for details and to apply.
For further advice and assistance
- Contact the Consumer Protection Contact Centre on 1300 304 054 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tenants may contact Circle Green Community Legal (the new home of Tenancy WA) on (08) 6148 3636 or for country callers 1800 621 888.
- The Financial Counsellors Association of Western Australia provides free advice to Western Australians in financial distress
- Subscribe to our Landlords bulletin for the latest reminders, news and law updates delivered straight to your inbox.
- Subscribe to our Tenants bulletin for the latest reminders, news and law updates delivered straight to your inbox.
- For COVID-19 information related to other consumer issues visit our COVID-19 coronavirus Consumer Protection FAQ.
The information provided on this page was accurate at the time of publishing, but may change without notice and be updated by Consumer Protection WA at any time.
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