The Federal Government has launched various initiatives to help society get through the COVID-19 crisis, but its request to landlords for leniency is not an invitation for tenants to refuse to pay their rents without reason.
Each state has different laws relating to renting property and tenant rights. Below, are six common questions relating to the coronavirus upheaval. The information is general and does not pertain to a particular state or territory.
Can I be evicted?
No. A moratorium has been placed on evictions by the Federal Government. At the time of writing, the Prime Minister has promised to establish a code of conduct for how negotiations should be conducted between landlords and tenants. Tenants’ unions can provide more detail for you.
What should I do if I’ve lost my job and can’t make my rent?
Discuss the situation with your property manager who will pass the information on to your landlord. It may be possible to negotiate a reduced rent, even for a limited time. Replacing you as a tenant, especially if you’re a good tenant, will be expensive and time-consuming for the landlord. So, you will have some leverage.
Be aware however, there is no current obligation on the landlord to come to the party.
Also, a deferral of rent to be paid at some point in the future may be sought. Consider your financial situation as this should be agreed only after the most careful consideration. You should seek advice from your Tenancy Advice Service before making a decision.
Have my rights been changed during the COVID-19 crisis?
No. Both the state and Federal Governments have powers in this area but have not yet used them. The website tenants.org.au will provide the latest related information.
Can landlords conduct inspections, including open houses?
Open houses are back so long as there are no more than 10 people in the property An agent also has the right to conduct a private inspection. No more than two inspections can be made each week unless you agree to more. However, renters should insist on a cleaning regime after an inspections of any size.
Can I move house or apartment?
Yes. Removals are deemed an essential business, and no state-based public health order prevents an individual travelling for the purpose of moving home. Of course, you will need to adhere to social distancing rules. Also, be aware that many removal companies now insist on no-contact engagements. This means you would not be allowed to be on site when they pack and unpack your belongings.
What if something breaks? Can repairs still be made?
Yes. Your property manager can still organise for urgent repairs to be made, however, this may take longer due to the availability of trades and services. You will also need to coordinate social distancing etiquette when they arrive.