Queensland Government Rent Relief Package -  FAQs For Tenants

Queensland Government Rent Relief Package - FAQs For Tenants

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

The Queensland Government has passed a $400 million proposal to support landlords and tenants, both commercial and residential, impacted by the COVID-19 disaster.

 

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.


To help you understand these initiatives we have compiled the following FAQ’s that outlines the legislative changes made to protect eligible tenants, including eviction moratoriums and rent freezes.

 

What does the Queensland Government’s Rental package of measures include?

Temporary legislative changes will be 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.

What should I do if I have been impacted by COVID-19 and will be unable to pay my rent?

If you are having trouble paying your rent, or think you will have trouble, you should let your property owner or manager know as soon as possible. It’s best if all parties try to come to a suitable outcome and work through these impacts during this difficult time.

 

You should:

  • Talk to your property owner or manager to negotiate a suitable outcome
  • Try to be understanding and reasonable in your dealings with each other
  • Consider each situation individually
  • Document any decisions made
  • Follow any government and/or health agency requirements.

In order to meet the requirements for the six-month moratorium on evictions any of the following may 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
  • The person suffers a loss of income of 25% or more, OR
  • The rent payable is 30% or more person’s income.

Renters and property owners are encouraged to agree on solutions together. If this is not possible, conciliation through the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) will be a mandatory requirement.

 

If you still have difficulty paying the rent, the Australian Government has expanded financial support entitlements. Make sure you have applied to Centrelink for the COVID-19 income support.

 

If you have lost your job and do not have access to any other financial assistance, and haven’t been able to negotiate a change in rent, you may be eligible for a COVID-19 Rental Grant. More in this below.

 

What COVID-19 special terms could I potentially negotiate with my landlord?

The following are some possible options to discuss with your landlord / property manager if you are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19 hardships.

  • 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, please visit covid19.qld.gov.au/the-hub.  


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)

 

Can I be evicted if I can’t pay my rent because of COVID-19?

The Queensland Government has placed a freeze on evictions due to rent arrears for 6 months for Queensland tenants experiencing financial distress due to the impacts of COVID-19.


It’s important that you talk with your property owner and try to reach agreement. You may need to explain why you are having trouble paying your rent.


If you are unable to reach agreement, conciliation through the RTA will be a mandatory process. In this conciliation process, you may be required to provide information to the RTA to demonstrate your financial situation and substantiate the hardship you are experiencing.

For more information, 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
  • Visit the Residential Tenancies Authority website.

What is the COVID-19 Rental Grant?

A crisis payment of up to $500 a week for up to four (4) weeks ($2000 maximum), is now available to Queenslanders who are homeless, or at imminent risk of becoming homeless and have exhausted these options:

  • Are renting a property currently or will shortly move into a new tenancy
  • Have lost their job and have applied to Centrelink for the COVID-19 income support;
  • Are waiting for their application with Centrelink to be approved; and
  • Have evidence negotiating a payment approach with their lessor/landlord directly, or via their property manager, as well as evidence of conciliation with the Residential Tenancies Authority but cannot reach agreement.
  • More information and eligibility is available online from the Residential Tenancies Authority, or by calling 1800 497 161.


The COVID-19 Rental Grant is a one-off payment of up to 4 weeks rent (maximum of $2000) available to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic who do not have access to other financial assistance.


The grant is paid directly to your lessor.

 

Before you apply

You must have had a conversation with your lessor and be able to provide evidence that the lessor has declined all attempts for you to make a payment arrangement.

 

Am I eligible for the COVID-19 Rental Grant?

Applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • You live in Queensland
  • You have, or will shortly have, a bond registered with the Residential Tenancies Authority
  • You are an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or have a temporary or permanent protection visa or possess a bridging visa
  • You do not have more than $10,000 in cash and savings
  • You can provide evidence of attempts to negotiate a payment plan with your lessor (including a letter or email from them outlining the reasons why a payment plan cannot be agreed on)
  • You have lost your job and have applied to Centrelink for income support
  • You are waiting for your application with Centrelink to be approved.


Please note that only tenants can apply for this grant. Agents, lessors and landlords cannot apply on behalf of tenants.

 

My circumstances have not changed as a result of COVID-19, do these changes apply to me? 

No, the changes such as the freeze on evictions apply to those who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 situation and can demonstrate this with supporting evidence.

 

Can my property owner do property inspections, including open homes?

During the COVID-19 health emergency, open homes are not allowed.

 

If a tenant refuses physical entry for an inspection, they must allow a virtual inspection, or other ways of allowing inspections, such as by video conference, photographs or by appointment if social distancing and hygiene protocols are maintained, should be considered.

 

Property owners and managers can enter the property in emergencies to protect the property or inclusions from imminent or further damage or conduct essential repairs. Entry to comply with existing regulatory obligations that ensure tenant safety in the rental property, such as maintaining smoke alarms, must be permitted.

 

Additionally, you will have the right to refuse entry to the property by an owner or agent/manager for non-essential reasons (including routine inspections), particularly if you or a member of your household has a higher risk profile if exposed to COVID-19.

 

Inspections can still be done via video conference, detailed photos or by appointment while observing social distancing and hygiene protocols. Refer to Queensland Health for information on the current public health directions.

 

It is important that all parties communicate openly and respectfully and try to establish an agreed way to work during this difficult time. Any agreement should be recorded in writing. All parties should advise each other early of any health, safety or financial impacts if the inspection does or doesn’t occur.

 

I need emergency repair, can tradespeople still be organised?

Repairs and maintenance may be required to keep the premises safe, and in many cases can be completed in-line with social distancing rules. Talk with your property owner or manager if you have any concerns.

 

I am under extreme hardship and wish to break my lease?

Eligible tenants who need to end their fixed term lease early because of COVID-19 impacts will have their break lease costs capped at the equivalent of one week rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, after giving the required notice period to end the tenancy.

 

To be eligible for capped break lease costs the household must have lost 75% or more of their income and have less than $5000 in savings. Tenants may be asked to provide information to support that they meet these eligibility requirements.

 

If you are having difficulty negotiating with your property owner or agent (for example, if they are refusing to discuss or cannot be contacted), you should contact the RTA to arrange conciliation which will be a mandatory process.

 

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
  • Visit the Residential Tenancies Authority website.

If you need support to access new accommodation, our RentConnect service can help you find and apply for a place to rent. Find out more on our RentConnect page or call phone 13 QGOV (13 74 68) to make an appointment with a RentConnect officer.

 

What relief do commercial tenants receive?

Any land tax relief provided to commercial landlords must be passed onto eligible tenants.


The State Government is providing a range of support packages to businesses affected by COVID-19. These should be considered alongside support being provided by the Federal Government and private sector service providers including banks and utility companies.


Commercial tenants can complete the Business Impact Survey found on business.qld.gov.au to be linked with further support.

 

Where can I get more information on renting in Queensland during COVID-19?

A central point where you can find information and support on the COVID-19 changes affecting renting in Queensland are on their 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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