Information for Tenants and Occupants impacted by COVID-19

INFORMATION FOR TENANTS AND OCCUPANTS

This information is current as of 2 September 2021 and will be updated if the Commonwealth Government or the ACT Government announce new measures or changes. Residential tenancy laws differ across the States and Territories and 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. Please note that the effects of the changes discussed below will depend upon the circumstances of the individual residential tenancy agreement (including whether it is for a fixed term or periodic). You may wish to seek legal advice about your individual circumstances.

The present COVID-19 situation in the ACT is impacting individuals and households in our community in a number of ways. The ACT Government recognises that some of the lockdown requirements are causing financial distress and that a growing number of people are subject to directions to quarantine for periods of time in their homes. As a result, some tenants and landlords are having difficulties meeting their financial agreements or are uncertain about their rights during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The ACT Government has taken steps to help reduce the risks of homelessness and financial hardship during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

This information explains the residential tenancy response measures put in place by the ACT Government to assist tenants who are financially impacted by COVID-19 or are subject to quarantine directions.

Further information for landlords can be found here
 

Do the COVID-19 emergency response measures change any of my rights or obligations?

As part of the emergency response measures, a number of temporary changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the Act) have been introduced with the commencement of the Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Declaration 2021 (No 3) (the declaration) on 2 September 2021. 
The declaration has introduced temporary measures to protect households that have been identified as being impacted physically or financially by COVID-19 including:

  • a 12 week moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent where tenants are a COVID-19 impacted household;
  • protection for households subject to a public health direction to quarantine or self-isolate from being required to leave their home during the quarantine period; 
  • a relaxation on the time period for non-urgent repairs;
  • a rental increase freeze for COVID-19 impacted households;
  • restrictions on physically accessing rental premises and alterations to the way inspections should be performed; 
  • restrictions on COVID-19 impacted tenants and impacted households being added to tenancy databases;
  • the ability for impacted households to end a fixed term tenancy early and without penalty by providing 3 weeks’ notice and evidence that they are so impacted;
  • allowing tenants from impacted households who have had a termination and possession order made against them or a warrant for eviction issued, but who are still in their rental premises, to apply for the orders to be suspended during the moratorium period;
  • allowing tenants from impacted households who had a termination and possession order suspended or warrant stayed during the moratorium period to apply to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) to reconsider those orders at the end of the moratorium period in certain circumstances; 
  • a 12 week transitional period following the moratorium period which prevents evictions on the basis of debt accrued during the moratorium where rent is being paid when it falls due during the transition period; 
  • the ability for landlords, tenants, grantors and occupants to negotiate reduced rent or occupancy fees or a deferral of rent payments;
  • a requirement for ACAT to consider making a payment order (a type of repayment plan) instead of an eviction order where a termination order is sought against an impacted household where they are not still protected by the eviction moratorium. 

To date, all other rights and obligations under residential tenancy and occupancy agreements remain the same.

What happens if I receive a notice to vacate that requires me to leave the property when I am subject to a public health direction to quarantine or self-isolate?

If you, or any member of your household, are directed to quarantine or self-isolate under a public health direction and a notice to vacate has been issued (for any reason) that takes effect during the quarantine period, you are not required to vacate the premises during your quarantine period. 

When the quarantine period ends, you can nominate a day you will vacate the property so long as it is not more than 2 weeks after the quarantine period ends. If you do not nominate a day, you must vacate within 2 weeks after the day the quarantine period ends, unless otherwise agreed with the lessor. You will still be required to pay rent until the day that you leave.

What happens if I issued a notice of intention to vacate that indicates I will leave the property, but I am now subject to a public health direction to quarantine or self-isolate?

If you have issued a notice of intention to vacate (you have told your landlord you intend to leave the property) and your intended date to leave falls within your quarantine period you must remain in the property to complete your quarantine period. You can withdraw your notice of intention to vacate and then issue a new notice for a new date outside your quarantine period on which you intend to leave the property. You will still be required to pay rent until the day that you leave.

What happens if ACAT has ended my tenancy or issued a warrant for my eviction, but I am subject to a quarantine direction or direction to self-isolate?

If ACAT has made a termination order or issued a warrant for your eviction and you or any member of your household, is directed to quarantine, you may apply to the ACAT to suspend the termination order to ensure you can comply with the direction to quarantine. The suspension will apply for up to 2 weeks after the end of the quarantine period.

What is the moratorium on evictions for rental arrears?

The moratorium on evictions applies to households that can demonstrate they are impacted by COVID-19. These households cannot be evicted because of their failure to pay rent during the moratorium period (12 weeks – unless extended). 

Tenants who are not considered a household impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can have their residential tenancy agreement terminated for failure to pay rent. 

For impacted households, during the moratorium period landlords must not

  • give you a Notice to Vacate or termination notice because of your failure to pay rent;
  • apply for a termination and possession order (an eviction order) or a payment order (a type of repayment plan) under sections 49, 49A and 49B of the Act; or
  • apply for a warrant for the eviction of a tenant under section 41 of the Act.

Please be aware, evictions can still occur on other grounds.

It is important to note that even if the moratorium on rental arrears evictions applies to you, that does not mean that you do not have a legal obligation to pay rent during that period. While you cannot be evicted during the moratorium period, you will still legally owe the full amount of rental arrears to your landlord, unless both you and the landlord have agreed to a lesser amount.

When is a household impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

A household is COVID-19 impacted if:

  • one or more rent-paying members of a household have lost income (or had a reduction in income) due to 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; and
  • on or after 12 August 2021:
    • the household’s or individual household member’s gross weekly income is 20% less than their income before it was stopped or reduced; or
    • a rent-paying household member has lost 8 hours of work or more.

Alternatively, a household is also impacted if a member of the household became eligible for the Commonwealth Disaster Payment or the ACT Government Small Business Grant on or after 12 August 2021. 

The moratorium on evictions and certain other protections only apply to households that can demonstrate they are impacted by COVID-19.

Will the moratorium on eviction for rental arrears period be extended?

The moratorium period is currently 12 weeks. If the health and safety measures and public health directions currently in place for COVID-19 need to continue for a longer period, the Attorney-General may decide to extend the moratorium period.

I am in an impacted household, have evidence and am still being evicted, now what?

In the event a Notice to Vacate for rent arrears is issued by your landlord, it will not be valid during the moratorium period for impacted households. Further, if a landlord applies to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) for a termination and possession order, ACAT can consider your evidence of being a COVID-19 impacted household. If ACAT is satisfied that you are COVID-19 impacted, then they will not be able to terminate your tenancy during the moratorium period.

If you were an impacted household during the moratorium period and are issued a Notice to Vacate during the transition period on the basis of rent arrears that accrued before the end of the moratorium period (moratorium arrears), then the Notice to Vacate will not be valid if you are paying your rent as it falls due during the transition period. ACAT will not be able to evict you on the basis of your moratorium arrears.  However, if you fail to pay your rent as it falls due during the transition period, then the Notice to Vacate may be valid and your landlord may be able to apply to ACAT for a termination and possession order. In these circumstances, ACAT will be required to consider making a payment order as an alternative to eviction (see further information on payment orders below).

You can seek free legal advice about your rights from the Legal Aid Tenancy Advice Service which is funded by the ACT Government on 1300 402 512 (see further details below).

What if I already have an ACAT hearing date for a rent arrears eviction?

If your landlord made an application for your eviction because you were behind in rent before the moratorium and you have been given an ACAT hearing date, you should still attend the hearing (or dial in, if it is being held via teleconference). If you are in a COVID-19 impacted household, you can ask that the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) delay making a decision on the eviction until the end of the moratorium period.

After the moratorium period has ended your matter may be relisted. However, if you were in a COVID-19 impacted household during the moratorium ACAT will be required to consider making a payment order before they can make a termination and possession order (see further information on payment orders below).

You can seek free legal advice about your rights from the Legal Aid Tenancy Advice Service on 1300 402 512 (see further details below).

What if an order has already been made by the ACAT before the start of the moratorium?

During the moratorium period the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) may suspend existing orders (made prior to the moratorium period) (pre-moratorium orders) in relation to a failure to pay rent for a stated period of not more than the moratorium period if:

  • the tenant was a member of an impacted household; 
  • the tenant had not vacated the premises; and
  • the tenant applied to have the order suspended

If you are in this situation, you will need to make an application to ACAT to have the orders suspended

At the end of the moratorium, ACAT may vary or set aside pre-moratorium orders if it is satisfied that, since the order was made, the tenant has paid part or all of the rent arrears (or the tenant can otherwise demonstrate that their financial circumstances have improved) and the tenant is reasonably likely to pay future rent as it becomes payable.

If you are in this situation, you will need to make an application to ACAT to have the orders varied or set aside. Seek legal advice about your rights from the Legal Aid Tenancy Advice Service on 1300 402 512 (see further details below).

Are there any restrictions on rent increases for households impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

If your household is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as defined, your landlord must not increase your rent under the residential tenancy agreement during the moratorium period.  This does not apply to rent where the amount of rent you pay is based on your income (for example, if you are in a social housing property and the rent you pay is calculated as a percentage of your income).

Are there any restrictions on listings in tenancy databases for households impacted by COVID-19?

If your household is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, information about your failure to pay rent during the moratorium period must not be published in a residential tenancy database. 

This restriction remains after the end of the moratorium period if you remain in arrears for rent payable during the moratorium period.

Rent reductions or deferrals by mutual agreement

You can come to an agreement with your landlord to reduce or defer rent if you are suffering from financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The mutual agreement can be given effect by:

  • Including a COVID-19 temporary rent reduction clause in the residential tenancy agreement (please see further detail on this clause below); OR
  • Including a COVID-19 temporary rent deferral clause in the residential tenancy agreement (please see further detail on this clause below); 

and

  • Providing a written confirmation of:
    • the agreed reduced rent; and 
    • the period the reduced rent applies.
What is the COVID-19 rent reduction clause?

The COVID-19 temporary rent reduction clause is an optional additional standard term that tenants and landlords may use to amend their existing tenancy agreement to give effect to an agreed rent reduction.  If you and your landlord voluntarily agree to include a rent reduction clause in your existing agreement it is taken to be a COVID-19 temporary rent reduction clause

The COVID-19 temporary rent reduction clause provides:

  1. The parties agree that because of financial hardship suffered by the tenant arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, for the period stated in writing by the parties the rent payable under the agreement is reduced to an amount stated in writing by the parties. 
    Note: Writing includes any way of representing or reproducing words in visible form including email or text message (see Legislation Act, dict, pt 1, def of writing).
  2. The parties may, in writing, extend the period in which rent is reduced for a further stated period if the tenant continues to suffer financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is the COVID-19 rent deferral clause?

The COVID-19 temporary rent deferral clause is an optional additional standard term that tenants and landlords may choose to include that amends their existing tenancy agreement to give effect to an agreed rent deferral. 

If the rent deferral clause is included in a form other than in the form set out below, the clause will be taken to be a COVID-19 rent reduction clause. This is intended to provide certainty to both parties as to whether rent deferral or rent reduction is agreed. 

The COVID-19 rent deferral clause provides:

  1. The parties agree that because of financial hardship suffered by the tenant arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, for the period stated in writing by the parties the rent payable under the agreement is deferred for the period and for the amount stated in writing by the parties.
    Note: Writing includes any way of representing or reproducing words in visible form including email or text message (see Legislation Act, dict, pt 1, def of writing). 
  2. The parties may, in writing, extend the period in which rent is deferred for a further stated period if the tenant continues to suffer financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  3. The parties agree that at the end of the period in which the rent is deferred, the amount of deferred rent is payable to the lessor in accordance with— 
    1. the arrangements agreed between the parties; or 
    2. if the parties cannot agree—the terms decided by the ACAT taking into account what is reasonable for both parties.
Are landlords required to agree to a rent reduction or deferral?

No. Landlords and tenants can come to an agreement about reducing or deferring rent but they are not required to do so. Where a rent deferral clause is voluntarily agreed to be included in your existing agreement it must be in the form set out by the COVID-19 rent deferral clause or it will be taken to be a rent reduction and not a deferral. This is intended to provide certainty to both parties as to whether rent deferral or rent reduction is agreed. If you and your landlord voluntarily agree to include a rent reduction clause in your existing agreement it is taken to be a COVID-19 temporary rent reduction clause.

What happens after the period of reduced rent ends?

You and your landlord can agree on an extension to the period, in writing, if you continue to suffer from financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the reduced rent period is not extended, the rent payable reverts to the amount stated in the residential tenancy agreement. This return to the previous rent amount is not an increase in rent for the purposes of the Act. This means that the rent can return to its pre-COVID-19 amount without it counting towards the requirement that rents only be increased at intervals of more than 12 months or that the rent increases be limited to a prescribed amount or without the landlord needing to issue a notice that the rent will increase.  

Where you have agreed to a rent reduction, the reduced rent amount that was agreed to will not be rent arrears or a debt owed to your landlord.

What happens after the period of deferred rent ends?

You and your landlord can agree to extend the period by agreeing to the extension in writing you continue to suffer from financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the deferred rent period is not extended, the rent payable will revert to the amount stated in the residential tenancy agreement. This reversion is not an increase in rent for the purposes of the Act. This means that the rent can return to its pre-COVID-19 amount without it counting towards the requirement that rents only be increased at intervals of more than 12 months or that the rent increases be limited to a prescribed amount and the landlord is not required to issue a notice that the rent will increase. The amount of the deferred rent is arrears and therefore a debt that is owed to your landlord. 

Where your rent has been deferred you should propose a payment plan to your landlord in relation to the deferred debt.  If you and your landlord are unable to agree either you or your landlord can apply to ACAT and ACAT can decide the repayment terms taking into account what is reasonable for both parties.

Reduction in occupancy fees by mutual agreement

If you are an occupant you can come to an agreement with your grantor to reduce your occupancy fees for a specified period if you are suffering from financial hardship arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mutual agreement should specify the amount and duration of the fee reduction and be recorded in writing. Grantors and occupants may extend the period by agreeing to the extension if the occupier continues to suffer from financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the period is not extended, the fee payable under the occupancy agreement reverts to the amount immediately before the fee was reduced. This reversion is not an increase in fee and the grantor does not need to issue a notice that the fee will return to its previous rate.

I am in an impacted household and want to end my tenancy early, what can I do?

Some tenants may wish to terminate their agreements if they have alternative housing options available. Any tenancy can be ended at any time by agreement between the landlord and tenant. If you cannot agree, your rights in relation to ending a tenancy will vary depending on whether you are in a fixed-term or periodic tenancy.

Terminating a periodic tenancy

If you have a periodic tenancy, you can terminate the agreement at any time (regardless of whether you are COVID-19 impacted) by giving the landlord at least 3 weeks written notice of your intention to vacate.  The tenancy will end on the date specified (assuming that date is at least 3 weeks after the notice is provided).

You do not have to pay any compensation to the landlord if you decide to end a periodic tenancy.  However, if you are in rental arrears, at the time you terminate your agreement you will still owe this money to your landlord.

You will need to go through the usual end of lease procedures in relation to an end of lease condition report and bond.  Speak to your landlord or real estate agent about how this can be done in a way that complies with any social distancing requirements.

Terminating a fixed term tenancy

If you are in a COVID-19 impacted household, you can give your landlord 3 weeks written notice that you want to end your fixed term tenancy early.  You will also need to provide your landlord with some evidence that you are a COVID-19 impacted household.  Evidence could include:

  • proof of eligibility for the Commonwealth COVID-19 Disaster Payment or the ACT Government Small Business Support Grant;
  • 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 
  • a statutory declaration which sets out how you have been impacted.

Your landlord will not be able to charge you a ‘break-lease’ fee if you terminate your agreement in these circumstances. However, if you are in rental arrears, at the time you terminate your agreement you will still owe this money to your landlord.

You will need to go through the usual end of lease procedures in relation to an end of lease condition report and bond.  Speak to your landlord or real estate agent about how this can be done in a way that complies with any social distancing requirements and any public health directions that may be in force.

The ability for COVID-19 impacted households to terminate their tenancy in this way will remain in place until the end of the transitional period.  After that time, the usual rules under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 will apply again and you may need to pay compensation or a break lease fee to your landlord if you want to end a fixed term tenancy early after the end of the transitional period.

I live in a share house and my housemate is no longer able to pay their rent, what can I do?

Where a co-tenant is unable to pay rent, other tenants who are on the lease remain jointly liable to pay rent.

If you are experiencing financial hardship as a household, you should contact your landlord or real estate agent in the first instance. You may be able to negotiate a rent reduction or to terminate your lease, even if it is a fixed term lease.

If your share house meets the definition of being COVID-19 impacted, you cannot be evicted for failure to pay rent during the moratorium period. However, you will still owe any unpaid rent as a debt to the landlord unless you have negotiated a rent reduction.

If you are a COVID-19 impacted household and are not able to pay rent during the moratorium period your landlord or agent is not able to list information about you in a residential tenancy database during the moratorium or transition period even where you still owe rent after the moratorium period.

The transition or grace period will operate for 12 weeks from the end of the moratorium period and will provide tenants who were in COVID-19 impacted households during the moratorium a longer timeframe to pay their rental debts. The transition period will mean tenants will not be able to be evicted on the basis of arrears that accrued before or during the moratorium on the condition that they pay rent as it falls due during the transition period. If a tenant is unable to meet their rent payments as they fall due during the transition period, ACAT will be required to consider making a payment order rather than ordering an eviction for a tenant who was in a COVID-19 impacted household (a payment order is a form of Tribunal-ordered repayment plan).

The new changes to co-tenancy laws which came into effect in March 2021 now allow a single co-tenant to leave the tenancy while the agreement continues between the landlord and the remaining co-tenant(s).  In order for a co-tenant to leave the co-tenancy they must seek consent from the landlord and any other co-tenants.  The laws in relation to refusing consent vary depending on whether the agreement is a fixed term tenancy or a periodic tenancy.  For more information on ending a co-tenancy see the Renting Book.

I live in a share house and my housemate is no longer able to pay their rent, can I terminate the tenancy?

Where a co-tenant is unable to pay rent, other tenants who are on the lease remain jointly liable to pay rent. In this situation, some tenants may decide to terminate their agreement if they have alternative housing options available rather than make up any shortfall in rent, accrue debt or negotiate a rent reduction with their landlord. Your options for terminating a tenancy will depend on whether it is during the fixed term or periodic tenancy:

  • If you have a periodic tenancy, you can terminate the agreement at any time by giving the landlord at least three weeks written notice of your intention to vacate;
  • If you have a fixed term and your household meets the definition of COVID-19 impacted then you can also terminate your tenancy, without penalty, by giving your landlord 3 weeks written notice of your intention to vacate.  However, in a fixed-term tenancy you will also need to provide your landlord with evidence that your household is COVID-19 impacted (see above for further information).  This measure will be in place until the end of the transition period.  After that time the usual rules under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 will apply. 

After the end of the transition period, if you are in a fixed term tenancy you may negotiate to end your tenancy early by mutual agreement with your landlord or, if an agreement cannot be reached, you may need to pay a break lease fee or compensation to your landlord for the early termination of your agreement.

The new changes to co-tenancy laws which came into effect in March 2021 now allow a single co-tenant to leave the tenancy while the agreement continues between the landlord and the remaining co-tenant(s).  In order for a co-tenant to leave the co-tenancy they must seek consent from the landlord and any other co-tenants.  The laws in relation to refusing consent vary depending on whether the agreement is a fixed term tenancy or a periodic tenancy.  For more information on ending a co-tenancy see the Renting Book.

Limiting access to premises

In all tenancies, restrictions have been put in place on the ability of landlords and agents to access premises during the COVID-19 emergency to assist in meeting social distancing measures.

These measures mean that a landlord or agent cannot physically access any rental premises during the moratorium period unless:

  • they have the tenant’s consent; or
  • it is necessary to do urgent repairs to the premises; or
  • it is in accordance with an order by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

These measures will remain in place until the end of the moratorium period.  After that time, the usual rules under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 will apply. Access to premises is also subject to public health directions.

What about property inspections?

In all tenancies, landlords and agents are encouraged to conduct ‘virtual’ inspections of the premises using audio-visual or other electronic means to avoid physically accessing the premises during the moratorium period.

Where a tenant does not consent, a landlord or agent is prevented from physically accessing any rental premises to undertake an inspection unless:

•    the tenant has already moved out of the property; or

•    the tenant has access to audio visual equipment but unreasonable fails to provide assistance to the landlord or agent to enable the virtual inspection to be done.

If you do not provide reasonable assistance to facilitate virtual inspections, your landlord could apply to the ACAT for an order that access be provided.

In relation to physical inspections, any public health directions that are in place should be considered and complied with. Where physical inspections are undertaken (and health directions permit), steps to protect the health and safety of the tenants and people visiting during an inspection should be considered. For example, landlords or agents may need to:

•    provide sanitiser or hand wash for people attending an inspection;

•    as far as practicable, ensure no one touches anything during the inspection;

•    if necessary, disinfect doorknobs or other surfaces where touching is required after the inspection has been finalised;

•    comply with distancing and requirements and restrictions on the number of people present.

These measures will remain in place until the end of the moratorium period. After that time the usual rules in relation to inspections under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 will apply.

What do these measures mean for repairs to property?

In all tenancies, where urgent repairs need to be undertaken at the premises, a landlord or agent is still permitted to physically access the premises (where public health orders permit).

Clause 60 of the standard residential tenancy terms outlines what constitutes urgent repairs. This includes, for example, repairs to a burst water service, a dangerous electrical fault or a gas leak.

Where non-urgent repairs need to be undertaken at any rental premises, this repair must be undertaken within a reasonable period as agreed to between the landlord or agent and tenant.

In deciding what is a reasonable period, the landlord or agent and tenant must have regard to the nature of the repair, the extent of access required to the premises to do the repair, and the hardship suffered by the tenant by the repairs not being done.

Where repairs are undertaken, landlords and tenants both need to be aware that it may be difficult to source tradespeople at this particular time. Tenants, landlords and tradespeople may also need to discuss how best to manage social distancing requirements while any work is undertaken.

This measure will operate until the end of the moratorium period. This means that at the end of the moratorium period , the usual rules under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 will apply (subject to public health directions) and non-urgent repairs will need to be completed within 4 weeks of the landlord being notified of their need.

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

As the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) provides essential services, it is operating at this time. However, its capacity may currently be reduced due to the pandemic. ACAT continues to hear urgent occupancy and residential tenancy matters (including applications for termination and possession orders). 
 
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.

What support will be in place for tenants after the moratorium has ended?

The ACT Government has put in place measures to continue to support tenants to provide a smooth transition out of the moratorium.

These measures are:

  • a transition period which limits evictions on the basis of rent arrears for COVID-19 impacted households in certain circumstances;
  • the continued ability to negotiate reduced rent;
  • a requirement for the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) to consider making a payment order instead of an eviction order for COVID-19 impacted household;
  • the continued ability for a tenant in a COVID-19 impacted household to terminate their fixed-term tenancy agreement early and without penalty;
  • continued restrictions on a negative listing being made about a person from a COVID-19 impacted household on tenancy databases; and
  • the ability for a tenant from a COVID-19 impacted household who had previous ACAT orders suspended during the moratorium to apply to ACAT to vary or set aside those orders.

These measures will be in place after the eviction moratorium has ended and will operate for twelve weeks (unless extended).

What is the Transition Period?

The transition or grace period provides tenants who are in arrears at the end of the moratorium with a longer period to repay these rent arrears before facing eviction.

The transition period will be in place for twelve weeks from the end of the moratorium period (unless extended). 

If you are in a COVID-19 impacted household and are in rent arrears at the end of the moratorium period, your landlord will not be able to evict you on the basis of those arrears during the transition period so long as you pay your rent as it falls due throughout the transition period.

Does the Transition Period apply to me?

The transition period applies to households that can demonstrate that they were impacted by COVID-19 during the moratorium period.

What happens if I don’t pay my rent during the transition period?

If you do not pay your rent as it falls due during the transition period, then your landlord will be able to take the usual steps under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 to end your tenancy. However, if your landlord applies to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) for a termination and possession order and you are in an COVID-19 impacted household, ACAT must consider making a payment order before they make a termination and possession order on the basis of your rent arrears (see further below).

If you fall into rental arrears during the transition period, you may wish to seek legal advice about your rights from the Legal Aid Tenancy Advice Service on 1300 402 512 (see further details below).

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.

If you are a tenant from a COVID-19 impacted household, ACAT will be required to consider if a payment order is appropriate for you before they can make a termination and possession order.  ACAT will still need to be satisfied that you will be reasonably likely to be able to comply with a payment order before they can make the order.

If you breach a payment order (by failing to pay your rent and any arrears amount specified in the order) your landlord can apply to ACAT to have your tenancy terminated.  They do not need to serve you with a new notice to vacate before they make this application.

If your landlord makes an application to ACAT for a termination and possession order you may wish to seek legal advice about your rights from the Legal Aid Tenancy Advice Service on 1300 402 512 (see further details below).

I applied to have a termination order or warrant suspended during the moratorium – what can I do now?

At the end of the moratorium period, ACAT may vary or set aside pre-moratorium orders if it is satisfied that, since the order was made, the tenant has paid part or all of the rent arrears (or the tenant can otherwise demonstrate that their financial circumstances have improved) and the tenant is reasonably likely to pay future rent as it becomes payable.

If you are in this situation, you will need to make an application to ACAT to have the orders varied or set aside before the orders come into effect. Seek legal advice about your rights from the Legal Aid Tenancy Advice Service on 1300 402 512 (see further details below).

Where can I go for help?

Advice for Private Tenants and Occupants

Contact the Legal Aid Tenancy Advice Service on 1300 402 512 or find out more information on their website: https://www.legalaidact.org.au/tasact

Advice about Social Housing or Eligibility for Centrelink payments

Contact Canberra Community Law on 02 6218 7977 or find out more information on their website: https://www.canberracommunitylaw.org.au/

For information about the on-off payment to support social housing tenants, please visit the Housing ACT website.

Relevant Legislation

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

Residential Tenancies Act 1997

Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Declaration 2021 (No 3)