Information for Landlords and Agents impacted by COVID-19

Landlords and Agents Impacted by COVID19 (updated 1 July 2021)

The ACT Government made changes to help landlords and tenants reduce the risks of homelessness and financial hardship during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

This information explains the measures put in place by the ACT Government to assist tenants and landlords who are financially impacted by COVID-19, in order to help you understand your rights and find solutions.

Use ACT law

Residential tenancy laws differ across the States and Territories and our COVID-19 response measures are also based on local circumstances.  You should always make sure the information you are relying on relates to the ACT. This fact sheet will be updated if the Commonwealth or ACT Governments announce new measures to help tenants and landlords.

In line with the commitment by National Cabinet, the ACT implemented a 6-month moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent for COVID-19 impacted households between 22 April and 22 October 2020.  The eviction moratorium has now ended.

A transitional period with additional measures to support tenants and landlords and to provide a smooth transition out of the moratorium was in place between 23 October 2020 and 30 June 2021. Most of the measures under this transitional period have also ended.   

However, a requirement for the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) to consider making a payment order instead of an eviction order for tenants who were in a COVID-19 impacted household during the moratorium period (the payment order provision) remains.

The payment order provision will remain in place for a further 3 months until 30 September 2021 (unless extended).

All other rights and obligations under residential tenancy and occupancy agreements remain the same.

* A link to the Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Declaration 2021 (No 2) can be found here https://www.legislation.act.gov.au/di/2021-166/

 

Does the payment order provision apply to my tenant?

The payment order provision applies to households that can demonstrate that they were impacted by COVID-19 during the moratorium period (22 April to 22 October 2020) in the following ways:

  1. A member of the household became eligible for the JobSeeker or JobKeeper payment from the Commonwealth on or after 20 March 2020 OR
  2. Where the household income (inclusive of any government assistance) had reduced by 25% or more due to:
  • one or more rent-paying members of the household being impacted by measures taken by any State, Territory or the Commonwealth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (for example, COVID-19 business closures or stand-downs); or
  • one or more rent-paying members of a household have had to stop working or reduce work hours due to illness with COVID-19 or to care for a family  member who is ill with COVID-19.

 See below for the types of evidence your tenant is able to provide in order to demonstrate that they were a member of an impacted household during the moratorium period.

How can my tenant demonstrate that they were an impacted household during the moratorium period?

Tenants may be able to provide some documents to demonstrate that they have been impacted by COVID-19. The sorts of simple evidence that may show they are a COVID-19 impacted household could include, for example:

  • proof of eligibility for JobSeeker or JobKeeper payment;
  • proof of job termination or stand-down such a letter or email from your employer;
  • proof of loss of work hours such as rosters showing a reduction in hours;
  • proof of prior and current income in a bank statement or payroll; or
  • making a statutory declaration.

Landlords should be aware that some tenants, particularly if they have had informal work arrangements, may have difficulty providing some forms of evidence. Statutory declarations should be taken as an acceptable form of evidence. Landlords and tenants are encouraged to work together to resolve any issues.

What is a payment order and when can ACAT make one?

A payment order is an order that the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) can make instead of making a termination and possession order (an eviction order) when the landlord has applied to ACAT to end the tenancy on the basis of rent arrears.  A payment order allows a tenancy to continue and is an order that the tenant pay their rent plus a specified amount towards the arrears.  In other words, it gives the tenant another chance to save their tenancy.

Before making a payment order, ACAT must be satisfied that the tenant will be reasonably likely to make the payments required under the payment order. 

Although ACAT already has the discretion to make payment orders in circumstances where they are considered appropriate, if your tenant is from a COVID-19 impacted household, ACAT will be required to consider if a payment order is appropriate for the tenant before they can make a termination and possession order.  ACAT will still need to be satisfied that your tenant will be reasonably likely to be able to comply with a payment order before they can make the order.

If your tenant breaches a payment order (by failing to pay their rent and any arrears amount specified in the order) you can apply to ACAT to have the tenancy terminated.  You do not need to serve them with a new notice to vacate before making this application.

Will my tenant need to pay back any rent they didn’t pay during the moratorium period?

Yes. They will still need to pay back any rental arrears. This may be a reduced amount if you agreed to a reduction in rent.  Your tenant will not be required to repay the difference between the original rent amount and the reduced rent if you did agree to a rent reduction.

Implications for landlord’s insurance

Some landlords hold landlord insurance policies in relation to their rental property which may include protection for loss of income due to a tenant being unable to pay rent. If your tenant qualified for the moratorium on evictions and was unable to pay rent, you should contact your insurer about your policy coverage and any potential claim.

How has COVID-19 affected ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s (ACAT) operating procedures?

Tenancy and occupancy disputes (including applications to terminate agreements on the basis of hardship) can be resolved through the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT). ACAT is fully operational, however has changed some procedures to manage the COVID-19 risk, minimise the spread, and comply with Territory and Commonwealth government advice.

For details about the arrangements ACAT has in place during the COVID-19 emergency response, please see https://www.acat.act.gov.au/what-to-expect/changes-due-to-covid-19  You can contact ACAT by email on tribunal@act.gov.au or by phone on (02) 6207 1740.

Where can I go for help?

The Small Business Clinic at Legal Aid is a free service that continues to operate at this time between 2pm and 5pm every Thursday. It provides small business operators with free information and advice regarding their business. This service may be able to provide advice to landlords.  You can contact them on 1300 654 314 or find out more information on their website: https://www.legalaidact.org.au/contact-legal-aid.

Landlords may need to seek private legal advice if in doubt about their rights and obligations.

Relevant Legislation

To access the relevant legislation, click on the link below:

Residential Tenancies Act 1997