Information for Tenants and Occupants impacted by COVID-19

Information for tenants Impacted by COVID19 (updated 1 July 2021)

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 information 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 provide a smooth transition out of the moratorium was in place from 23 October 2020 to 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. A payment order is an order that the 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.

The payment order provision will operate until 30 September 2021 (unless extended).

All other rights and obligations under residential tenancy agreements remain the same. For more information about your rights and obligations under your tenancy agreement see the Renting Book.

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 me?

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 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 you are able to provide in order to demonstrate that you were a member of an impacted household during the moratorium period.

How do I prove I am impacted by COVID-19?

You can provide documents which evidence that you are impacted by COVID-19 to your landlord or agent such as:

  • 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.
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.

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).

Do I need to pay back any rent I wasn’t able to pay during the moratorium period?

Yes, you still need to pay back any rental arrears. This may be a reduced amount if you negotiated with your landlord or agent for a reduction in rent.

Can landlords claim the gap in rent reduction and original rent as arrears or debt?

Whether your landlord has deferred your requirement to pay a certain amount of your rent (and you have to pay it back later), or whether they have permanently waived your obligation to pay that rent (and you never have to pay back the gap amount) will depend on the agreement that you have reached with your landlord.  The moratorium declaration and transitional period declarations, created an optional additional temporary rent reduction clause which landlords and tenants could agree to include in their tenancy agreements.  That rent reduction clause provided the difference in reduced rent and the amount immediately before the rent was reduced could not be claimed by the landlord as arrears or debt for that period.  If you and your landlord agreed to the inclusion of that provision, the landlord will not be able to claim the reduced rent amount as a rent debt.

However, if you did not use the optional temporary rent reduction clause, then the question of what (if anything) you owe your landlord will depend on the nature of your agreement.

To have been eligible for the land tax rebate for reducing your rent due to COVID-19, your landlord needs to have provided you with a genuine rent reduction and not a rent deferral.

If you are not sure what rent you owe, you may wish to seek legal advice about the rent reduction agreement you made with your landlord. You can contact the Legal Aid Tenancy Advice Service on 1300 402 512 (see further details below).

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 ACAT 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?

Advice for Private Tenants and Occupants

Contact the Legal Aid Tenancy Advice Service (TAS) on 1300 402 512 or find out more information on their website: https://www.legalaidact.org.au/tasact. The ACT Government funds the TAS to provide free legal advice to all tenants in the ACT.

Advice about Social Housing or Eligibility for Centrelink payments

Contact Canberra Community Law on  6218 7900 or find out more information on their website: https://www.canberracommunitylaw.org.au/

Relevant Legislation

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

Residential Tenancies Act 1997