VIC Government Proposed Rent Relief Package - FAQ's For Tenants
The Victorian Government has proposed a $500 million package aimed at giving certainty to residential and commercial tenants and landlords, while they struggle with the economic disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
To help you understand these proposed initiatives we have compiled the following FAQ’s that outline the legislative changes that they plan to make to protect eligible tenants, including eviction moratoriums and rent freezes.
Please note these proposed changes have not been legislated and are subject to change. We will update this article when the final legislated changes are announced by the Victorian Government.
What does the Victorian Government Rental package of measures include?
- Evictions are banned for residential tenancies for six months, other than in exceptional circumstances
- Evictions will be banned for six months for the non-payment of rent for commercial tenancies involving small and medium sized businesses
- Rental increases are also banned for commercial and residential properties for six months
- The Victorian Government will create an $80 million rental assistance fund for renters facing hardship to due to Coronavirus
- $420 million in land tax relief. If a landlord provides tenants impacted by coronavirus with rent relief, they will be eligible for a 25% discount on their land tax, while any remaining land tax can be deferred until March 2021
- Tenants and landlords who struggle to agree a deal over rent reductions will be given access to a fast-tracked dispute resolution service, with Consumer Affairs Victoria or the Victorian Small Business Commission
I can’t afford to pay my rent because of coronavirus (COVID-19). What can I do?
If you want to leave:
Under these new laws, you will be able to apply to break the lease early if you are experiencing financial hardship. Fees for breaking a lease will not apply. The process for claiming your bond remains the same.
The landlord will not be able to list you on a residential tenancy database (blacklist) if you are unable to pay rent because of coronavirus (COVID-19).
If you want to stay:
The landlord will not be able to evict you, except in specific circumstances (including if you damage the property, use it for criminal activity, or serious violence occurs) or if you are able to pay rent, but wilfully do not.
If you are unable to pay your rent (for example, because of a change in your financial circumstances), you may be able to agree on a temporary rent reduction with your landlord. At the same time, it’s important you don’t ignore the problem, as not paying rent is a breach of your tenancy agreement. Make sure you:
- Contact your landlord or property manager to advise of your situation and risk of not being able to meet future rental payments
- Work out your estimated income and plan how much you can afford to pay in rent – taking account including Commonwealth income support payments
- Check your eligibility for government support, including the DHHS rent relief scheme
Your landlord still has the same responsibilities that exist on your current lease, including carrying out repairs.
Visit the Consumer Affairs Victoria website for information and advice on your rights and obligations
Can I end the tenancy early?
In limited circumstances a landlord or tenant may apply to end the tenancy. These include. Financial hardship where the property is not fit for habitation, the landlord has sold the property or needs to move in, or either party puts the safety of others at risk or there is malicious damage to the property. Special circumstances will apply for situations of family violence.
What if I’ve already been served a notice to vacate?
The new laws will apply from 29 March 2020. This means that you can’t be served a notice to vacate from that date. The landlord may still apply to terminate the tenancy under some circumstances (including if you damage the property, use it for criminal activity, or serious violence occurs).
You can seek a rent reduction, to an amount that you can afford.
You should contact your landlord or property manager as soon as possible to ask for a reduction. When you reach an agreement, make sure it’s in writing.
I have heard about a rent relief grant, what is this?
A new and dedicated $80 million will also be provided in rental assistance for those facing financial hardship. Under the program, tenants who are unable to secure a rent reduction must engage in a dispute resolution process with their landlord and Consumer Affairs Victoria’s dispute resolution service. They will act as a referee to ensure you can reach a fair agreement.
If you are paying more than 30% of your income in rent after reaching a mutual agreement with your landlord, you may be able to access a Victorian Government grant for rental relief.
If you meet an income and assets test, you can receive up to $2,000 in a rental relief payment. This payment is in addition to the rental reduction negotiated between you and your landlord and will be paid by DHHS to your landlord as a credit towards your rental payments.
This grant is paid directly to the landlord to help cover the costs of the shortfall. Learn more about the Rent Relief Grant and check your eligibility under this scheme.
If you are not eligible for a Rent Relief Grant, there is a range of information and other services available to support you. You may also be eligible for Commonwealth Rent Assistance through Centrelink.
What if my landlord will not agree to a rent reduction?
You will be able to contact Consumer Affairs Victoria for information and advice to help you. When you reach an agreement with your landlord, they will record it. If you’re still not able to reach an agreement, Consumer Affairs Victoria will refer you to our dispute resolution service.
These services are free. Accredited mediators will help you and your landlord agree on a payment plan. If you still can’t reach an agreement, the disputes resolution team will be able to issue a binding order, setting out the relevant terms.
You may also be eligible for a Rent Relief Grant.
How long will my new rent be frozen for?
The laws will remain in effect for six months to 26 September 2020. Your landlord will not be able to increase the rent during that time.
What measures are proposed to help commercial tenants?
- A six-month moratorium on commercial tenancy evictions from 29 March 2020 for the non-payment of rent for small to medium enterprises with an annual turnover under $50 million that have experienced a minimum 30 per cent reduction in turnover due to coronavirus (COVID-19
- Freeze on rent increases during the moratorium for commercial tenants
- A rental payment waiver or deferral proportionate to commercial tenants’ income reduction due to coronavirus (COVID-19), to be negotiated between tenant and landlord
- A mediation service for commercial tenants and landlords to support fair tenancy negotiations.
What are the regulations around inspecting an occupied / tenanted residential property?
Private inspections of an occupied/tenanted residential property are permitted to be organised. An inspection is only permitted where an estate agent and one other person (the person for whom the inspection is organised by private appointment) are present at the premises.
An inspection where an estate agent, the prospective tenant/purchaser and a resident of the premises are all present is not permitted. In this case the resident of the premises will have to leave the premises and should do so for a reason permitted under the SAHD, namely, to obtain necessary goods or services, for care and other compassionate reasons, to attend work or education or to exercise.
Those in isolation or quarantine should not leave their homes.
What are the regulations around inspections of tenanted properties?
Inspections by vendors or landlords
A vendor or a landlord wanting to enter a property to inspect it is permitted to do so if they have served a valid notice to enter the premises under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.
Inspections by estate agents
An estate agent is permitted to enter residential premises to exercise lawful duties as part of the exercise of their occupation, including to inspect a property on behalf of a landlord or vendor.
Restrictions on indoor gatherings do not apply to an estate agent entering an indoor space where it is necessary to enter a property in the exercise of their occupation. Accordingly, an estate agent may enter premises to conduct an inspection on behalf of a landlord or vendor irrespective of the number of residents of the property present at the time.
Estate agents, vendors or landlords conducting any inspection should ensure compliance and high levels of hygiene. See the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) information on appropriate cleaning and disinfecting.
Where can I learn more?
To stay updated on changes to renting laws and to be notified when the Victorian services are available, subscribe to their email list.
You can also ask questions, including registering your interest, by lodging an enquiry.
The information included in this article was taken from Consumer Affairs Victoria, Housing Victoria, premier.vic.gov.au and Business Victoria
The information, documents and links contained on this Property Management page are for reference and review only. We have no belief one way or the other as to whether or not the information is accurate or correct and do no more than merely post the information, documents and content for reference and review. If you intend to rely upon the information, documents or content we recommend that you make your own enquiries as to whether or not the information, documents or content are indeed accurate.
This information is provided subject to our Terms and Conditions.