COVID-19 sure has thrown up challenges for individuals, families, businesses and industries. Although primarily a medical crisis, the economic crisis that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic is significant. With the world effectively going into lockdown, many people lost their jobs overnight and others had their income drastically reduced. For tenants and property owners it has been and continues to be a difficult time.
In the early days of the pandemic we saw some government announcements pertaining to tenancy and then a period uncertainly whilst legislation was drawn up, agreed upon and passed. Initially proposed changes to legislation were heavily weighted toward tenants and essentially unmanageable by those at the frontline, property managers. We were very fortunate in QLD to have the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ), with some great leadership from CEO Antonio Mercorella, stand up for property owners to ensure a fair and balanced approach to legislation changes.
Here’s a quick summary of some of the key components of the COVID-19 legislative changes that are in effect, see below:
- Tenants who are suffering excessive hard because of COVID-19 and cannot meet their rental commitments cannot be evicted or listed on a tenancy database for rental arrears.
- Fixed term tenancy agreements set to expire during the COVID-19 pandemic will be extended to 30th September 2020 unless the tenant wants a shorter term.
- COVID-19 impacted tenancies can only be ended based on a narrow set of approved reasons – e.g. owner needs to move back in, property is to be sold, tenant experiencing domestic violence, property not in good repair on moving in. Prescribed notice periods must be adhered to.
- Capped break lease fees.
- Owner obligations for routine repairs relaxed.
- Tenants may refuse physical entry for non-essential reasons.
- Tenants and owners should work together to reason agreement regarding rental negotiations and must undertake conciliation to resolve disputes.
Please note, however, that the devil is in the detail, for example, the definition of excessive hardship and if a tenancy is COVID-19 impacted is the main determining factor regarding whether a tenancy is COVID-19 impacted. Essentially a person is suffering excessive hardship if are unable to work or have had work reduced due to COVID-19 AND have suffered a loss of 25% income or more OR they their rent payable is more than 30% of their income.
Much of the information from this article comes from a handy resource provided by the Residential Tenancies Authority, which you can find here. There are some great resources out there to help property owners, tenants and property managers to further understand the details of the legislation and its implementation.
- Residential Tenancies Authority – COVID-19 Changes – webpage provided information for tenants and property owners.
- Residential Tenancies Practice Guide – Guide for navigating requirements and protections for residential tenancies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accomodation (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020 – the actual legislation
- Queensland Government – Residential Rental Hub – the governments central COVID-19 Hub provided information for owners, tenants and property managers as well as information related to the government services that can be accessed.
As Property Managers, we have had to dramatically change our practices early on in regards to the conduct of open houses, routine inspections and having maintenance attended to, whilst working with property owners and tenants who have suffered loss of income and financial hardship. We have been pleased that the vast majority of tenants did all they could to continue their rental payments and obligations and where this was testing, owners tried their best to accomodate, within their means also. It’s heartening to know that in a time of crisis, most people try to do the right thing by each other.