Queensland Government Rent Relief Package - FAQ's For Landlords

Queensland Government Rent Relief Package - FAQ's For Landlords

Sarah Lefebvre
Sarah Lefebvre
27/04/2020 | 4 MIN READ

The Queensland Government has committed over $400 million to support landlords and tenants, both commercial and residential impacted by COVID-19. 

 

Initiatives include up to $400 million in land tax relief for eligible landlords, which must be passed onto tenants, and a crisis payment of $500 per week for up to four weeks in rent relief for residential tenants who are homeless, or at imminent risk of becoming homeless and have exhausted other options.

 

In order to help you navigate the new legislation, we have compiled the following FAQ’s.

 

What are the details of Queensland Government’s Rental package?

Temporary legislative changes have been made to protect eligible tenants, including eviction moratoriums and rent freezes. The details of the changes are below:

  • Six-month freeze on evictions - Tenants in financial distress due to the impact of COVID-19 who cannot meet their rent commitments cannot be evicted or listed in a tenancy database for rent arrears.  
  • Fixed term agreements due to expire during the COVID-19 pandemic will be extended to 30 September 2020 unless the tenant requests a shorter term.
  • Cap break lease fees for eligible tenants – household income reduced by at least 75% and savings of less than $5,000.
  • Tenants may refuse physical entry for non-essential reasons, including routine repairs and inspections, particularly if a member of the household is a vulnerable person. However, tenants must agree to virtual inspections if physical inspections are not agreed to.
  • Owner obligations for routine repairs and inspections have been relaxed but regulatory obligations to ensure tenant safety in the rental property continue to apply.
  • Tenants and property owners should work together to reach agreement. If agreement cannot be reached, parties are required to undertake conciliation to resolve disputes which aims to achieve conciliated agreements which form part of the tenancy agreement.
  • Providing support for Queenslanders experiencing domestic and family violence.
  • These proposed measures are in addition to the COVID-19 Rental Grant of up to $500 a week for up to four weeks ($2000 maximum) which is available to Queenslanders who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and have exhausted all other options.
  • Limiting any extension on the term of a tenancy agreement during the COVID-19 period to September 30, 2020 unless agreed otherwise by the owner and tenant, or there is an appropriate ground to end the tenancy.

When is a tenant eligible for the six-month moratorium on evictions?

To meet the requirements for the six-month moratorium on evictions, a household is impacted if:

1. A person is suffering excessive hardship due to the COVID-19 emergency if any of the following apply:

  • One or more tenants or residents are afflicted by COVID-19
  • They are subject to a public health direction to stay at a place
  • A public health direction has closed their employment or restricted their employer’s trade or business
  • They are self-isolating because they or a member of their household or a someone they are a primary carer for is a vulnerable person
  • They are unable to work because of a travel restriction
  • They have been prevented from returning to Australia; AND

2. The person suffers a loss of income of 25% or more, OR

3. the rent payable is 30% or more person’s income.

 

More information is available in the Residential Tenancies Practice Guide. The Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) can provide information and support tenants and property owners to reach agreement. They also offer a free dispute resolution service if you need further support.

 

If you need help with your tenancy, talk to the RTA:

Text (SMS) “Hi” to 0480 000 782, call the RTA’s information hotline on 1800 497 161 from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, or from 9am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday or visit the Residential Tenancies Authority website.

What support is the Queensland Government offering landlords? 

Eligible landowners can apply for up to three months waiver and three months deferral of land tax if either of the following circumstances apply.

1. You are a landowner who leases all or part of a property to one or more tenants and all the following apply:

  • The ability of one or more tenants to pay their normal rent is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • You will provide rent relief to the affected tenant(s) of an amount at least commensurate with the land tax relief; and
  • You will comply with the leasing principles even if the relevant lease is not regulated.

 

2. You are a landowner and all the following apply:

  • All or part of your property is available for lease;
  • Your ability to secure a tenant(s) has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • You require relief to meet your financial obligations; and
  • You will comply with the leasing principles even if the relevant lease is not regulated
  • Land tax relief applications will be managed by the Office of State Revenue. Applications will open from Tuesday 14 April.

 

What do I need to do with the rebate paid to me?

If you are eligible for the land tax rebate under both the above circumstances, it is expected you will apply the rebate paid firstly to provide rent relief to your tenants. You can then apply any remaining rebate to your own financial obligations (e.g. in relation to debt and other expenses).

 

The land tax rebate will only apply to each property that meets the above eligibility requirements and conditions, rather than the rebate applying to entire taxable landholdings.

 

Where there are multiple tenants for a single property, including mixed-use developments, if the eligibility requirements and conditions are met for at least one tenancy, then the whole property is eligible for the land tax rebate.

 

The land tax rebate does not need to be repaid if the eligibility requirements and conditions are met.

 

You can apply for the land tax rebate up to 30 June 2020.


How do I apply for the land tax relief program?

Land tax relief applications will be managed by the Office of State Revenue. Applications will open from Tuesday 14 April.


What leasing principles to I need to comply with to receive land tax relief? 

To be eligible for land tax relief, a landowner must commit to comply with the principles set out below. These principles will also be introduced into Queensland law.

1. If you are a residential landowner, the principles are as follows:

  • You will negotiate in good faith with your tenant to seek a mutually agreeable resolution if their ability to pay is impacted by COVID-19
  • You will not evict your tenant if they are in financial distress and unable to meet their commitments due to the impact of COVID-19;
  • You will not end a tenancy for any reason other than on an approved ground; this does not include the tenant’s inability to pay rent or the end of a fixed term lease;
  • You will not charge break lease fees for tenants who need to end a fixed term tenancy early due to the financial, health or personal safety impacts of COVID-19; and
  • You will allow a tenant to refuse entry for non- essential reasons, including routine repairs and inspections, particularly if a member of the household has a higher risk profile if exposed to COVID-19.

 

2. If you are a commercial landowner, the principles are as follows:

  • You will negotiate in good faith with your tenant to seek a mutually agreeable resolution if their ability to pay is impacted by COVID-19;
  • You will not evict your tenant if they are in financial distress and unable to meet their commitments due to the impact of COVID-19;
  • You will not increase rent, except where rent is linked to increased turnover;
  • You will not penalise a tenant who stops trading or reduces opening hours;
  • You will not charge any interest on unpaid or deferred rent; and
  • You will not make a claim on a bank guarantee or security deposit for non-payment of rent.

 

What should I do if my tenant cannot pay their rent due to COVID-19 hardships?

Try to minimise the potential for tension or stress by communicating openly, understanding each other’s circumstance and working together to agree a way forward that works for both of you.

If your tenants are likely to have difficulty meeting rent payments due to the impacts of COVID-19:

  • Start talking to them early about their options and keep discussions going, as circumstances can change quickly
  • Be reasonable when considering requests for rent adjustments. It is always better to keep good, long-term tenants than find new tenants
  • Consider the situation the tenant will be in when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides
  • Agree to the terms of any rent adjustments and be clear about expectations. For example, how much the rent can be reduced by and for what period.
  • Put the agreement in writing by using the General tenancy, rooming accommodation and moveable dwelling COVID-19 variation agreements (Forms 18d, e and f), including any special conditions.

If you are unable to reach agreement, conciliation through the RTA will be a mandatory process. The RTA can ask the tenant to provide information about their personal finances that can assist to resolve the dispute.

 

Any agreement about changes to the tenancy arrangement whether negotiated privately or through dispute resolution should be recorded in writing, including rent adjustments. You should use the RTA General Tenancy COVID-19 special terms form (18D) to record this agreement, ensuring that both you and your tenant have a copy of this form. The form is available on the RTA website.


The Australian Government has also expanded financial support entitlements. Read more about information and services available for people affected by COVID-19.


If you can't come to an agreement, you can contact RTA for tenancy information and support:

Text (SMS) “Hi” to 0480 000 782, call the RTA’s information hotline on 1800 497 161 from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, or from 9am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday or visit the Residential Tenancies Authority website.

 

What are some COVID-19 special terms could I potentially negotiate with my tenant if they are having difficulty paying rent due to COVID-19?

The following are some possible arrangements to discuss with your tenant if they are unable to pay their rent due to COVID-19

  • Rent variations
  • Terms of entry
  • Variations to an agreement end date
  • Who is/isn’t permitted to live in the property
  • Next steps at the end of the rent variation period. 


It is important that you put in writing any agreement you reach with the property owner or manager about rent adjustments and timelines. 


If you are unable to reach an agreement, conciliation through the RTA will be a mandatory process, subject to proposed legislative amendments. 


All tenants and property managers/owners have a shared responsibility to keep a copy of the signed form/s for reference and to ensure a smooth transition following the pandemic. 


It is important to note that these new variation agreement forms complement and do not replace current tenancy agreements already in place. All other terms in the existing tenancy agreements remain the same and legally binding.


For more information and support relating to COVID-19 for Queensland residential tenancies, please see our COVID-19 response page.


For more information on the Queensland Government’s COVID-19 response.  


New forms for temporary COVID-19 tenancy arrangements

The Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) has published a suite of new forms for customers to document any agreements made when negotiating temporary changes to their rental arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The new forms available for download from the RTA website include:

  • General tenancy COVID-19 variation agreement (Form 18d)
  • Rooming accommodation tenancy COVID-19 variation agreement (Form 18e)

 

What support can I get to pay my investment property mortgage?

Many lenders are offering to reduce or waive mortgage payments and landlords should seek to negotiate with their lender to try to obtain an agreement to waive or reduce these. 


If this is possible, landlords should have a greater capacity to agree to a reduced rent or charges for a period of time.


When can I issue my tenants a notice to leave the property?

You can issue a notice to leave for an approved reason to end a tenancy except for rent arrears caused by financial distress due to the impact of COVID-19. If a lease expires within the six month freeze on evictions, you must offer a minimum six month extension of the lease. This is not a new agreement and should be an extension of your current agreement.

 

If your tenant raises concerns about challenges they will face to comply with the notice to leave, talk to them openly, try to understand each other's circumstances and develop an acceptable solution.

 

If you are unable to reach agreement, conciliation through the RTA will be a mandatory process. Contact the RTA for more information:

  • Text (SMS) “Hi” to 0480 000 782
  • Call the RTA’s information hotline on 1800 497 161 from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, or from 9am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday
  • Visit the Residential Tenancies Authority website.

 

I have issued a notice to leave after 29/03 and I have another tenant moving in.   What should I do?

 

Not if the tenant has been affected by COVID-19. A freeze on evictions due to rent arrears caused by financial distress due to the impacts of COVID-19 was announced on 29th March 2020.

 

A notice to leave issued before this date, in the correct form, will still apply.

 

If your tenant raises concerns about challenges they will face to comply with the notice to leave, talk to them openly, try to understand each other's circumstances and develop an acceptable solution. You will also need to talk with any incoming tenants about how they will be impacted.

 

The RTA's free dispute resolution service may be able to help you reach an agreement or formalise an agreement you are able to make with your tenants.

 

Contact the RTA for more information and support:

  • Text (SMS) “Hi” to 0480 000 782
  • Call the RTA’s information hotline on 1800 497 161 from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, or from 9am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday
  • Visit the Residential Tenancies Authority website.

My tenants have abandoned my property due to COVID-19 hardship, what should I do? 

The rules around property abandonment remain the same.  

Where can I get more Queensland specific landlord information during COVID-19?

A central point where you can find information and support on the COVID-19 changes affecting renting in Queensland is on the Queensland Government COVID-19 Hub.


The information included in this article was taken from Queensland TreasuryQueensland COVID-19 Hub and Residential Tenancies Authority



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