Landlords and Tenants everywhere: “What the heck is going on with my rental?”

Okay folks, there is a lot of confusion surrounding yesterday’s changes to Victorian residential tenancy law. So, here is some clarification surrounding the most recent legislation reforms, that have happened in response to COVID-19.

Let’s clarify some things surrounding evictions, rental agreements, and rent increases:

  • There has been a temporary 6-month ban on evictions. The exception to this ban, is if tenants damage the property, use it for criminal activity or if serious violence has occurred.
  • There is a pause on issuing new rental increases for six months (as of 29 March 2020), meaning the next time a rental increase can be issued is in September 2020.
  • Tenants cannot just stop paying rent. If you are a tenant that is suffering from a major loss in income due to COVID-19, then step one is to communicate this with your landlord or property manager. Because, if you start falling behind in rent without putting arrangements in place, then you will accrue a bill of all unpaid rent, and that’s the last thing you want to be stressing about once this is all over! Instead, start a conversation with your property manager or landlord, so that we can work together to negotiate a rent reduction or a deferral. Through doing this you may also be eligible for a $2000 tenant relief grant (see information below). If your finances have been so severely impacted by COVID-19, that you can no longer maintain the rental at all, then you may be entitled to break your lease, without being charged the regular break lease fees. Speak to your property manager or landlord if you believe this may apply to you.
  • A fast-tracked dispute resolution process has been set up by the Victorian Government, these sessions will be mediated by Consumer Affairs Victoria or the Victorian Small Business Commission.

The recent legislation has made relief available, for both Tenants and Landlords experiencing financial hardship. Access to the relief is subject the landlords and tenants working together.

Now let’s talk about the Relief packages.

Landlords that are suffering financial hardship, can apply to access land tax relief (25 per cent discount) and defer any remaining land tax until March 2021. To be eligible for this relief you must have either: negotiated a revised agreement with your impacted tenants, or be an owner who is unable to secure a tenant due to COVID-19. If you believe that you may be eligible, head to this website to find out more and make a claim.

For tenants that are suffering financial hardship, a one-off relief grant, of up to $2000, is available for eligible tenants. To be able to access this payment you must:

  • Have been financially impacted by COVID-19.
  • Have less than $5000 in savings.
  • Have worked together with your Landlord/Property Manager to devise a revised agreement (such as a rent reduction or rent deferral), either privately or through mediation. Be sure to get this in writing as you will need a copy for your application for the grant.
  • Be paying at least 30% of your total income towards rent.

If you meet all of the above criteria then you need to lodge an enquiry with Consumer Affairs Victoria via this link. It is important to note, that if a tenant remains employed or their income remains relatively unaffected, then rent should be maintained and the conditions of the lease agreement upheld as normal.

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