June 01, 2020
Coronavirus - Tenant FAQ
This article will be updated shortly, we are currently awaiting confirmation on how the Victorian Government Stage 4 Restrictions impact real estate operations and property inspections.
At Jellis Craig, our priority is supporting our clients and the community throughout this challenging time. In recent conversations we have been asked a number of questions about the state of the rental market, the impact that Coronavirus is having on Tenants and Landlords and how we are adapting to the changing landscape.
In order to help you understand the current state of play and make informed property related decisions, we have put together a series of frequently asked questions for Tenants and Landlords.
If you would like to discuss anything further, our team of local property professionals are here to support you. You can speak with them over the phone, on video call, via email or in person with the appropriate social distancing measures in place.
How can I contact my Property Manager or the Office?
The office number is still operating as normal and can direct your call, otherwise you can still contact your Property Manager at any time by calling their direct or mobile number or via email. Please notice our offices are temporarily closed.
Does this situation change any of my rights as a tenant?
Despite the changing landscape, your rights as a tenant remain the same. Tenants and Landlords must continue to abide by the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. There are measures that the State and Federal Governments may put in place that may relate to your tenancy. We will update this page as often as possible when any new arrangement has been made.
Will routine inspections be taking place?
Offices have currently postponed any face to face routine inspections that were due to take place and will be in contact to arrange a time to inspect your property when social distancing measures have eased. Some offices may still conduct routine inspections via an online process, using FaceTime or Zoom. Your Property Manager will be in touch if this is the case.
Can I be evicted if I can’t pay my rent?
New temporary laws have been introduced to help protect Victorian Tenants and Landlords from the impact of the Coronavirus.
Tenants and Landlords still need to abide by the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the Act), and also the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020. These new laws apply for 6 months, beginning 29th March 2020.
The COVID-19 Omnibus ACT 2020 creates a moratorium on evictions in certain circumstances, and includes provisions to facilitate rent relief (for eligible tenants only), suspensions on rental increases, and establishment of a new dispute resolution process. These laws also make changes to how the landlord or tenant may end the tenancy during this 6 months moratorium period. For more detailed information for tenants for eligibility for reduced rental agreements ending a tenancy please visit Consumer Affairs Victoria - Information for Tenants and Landlords.
What happens if I have lost my job and need to move out of a fixed term lease?
If you need to vacate the property due to loss of employment or income you should contact your Property Manager who will speak with the Landlord to see if an agreement can be made to end the lease early. If the Landlord does not agree to this, you may apply to VCAT based on severe hardship.
Can I reduce or defer my rental payments?
If you are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the Coronavirus please ensure that you contact your Property Manager as soon as possible, and they can guide you through the relevant steps to apply to reduce or defer rental payments – at the approval of the Landlord.
What does this actually mean?
If you are experiencing genuine hardship as a result of the Coronavirus circumstances, then we require you to contact your Property Manager as soon as possible.
You should also explore the available options announced by the Government on assistance packages that have been released. If these options are not enough, you will be asked to complete our Financial Hardship Application, providing more specific details regarding your situation.
Once this form and supported documents have been completed, the Landlord will be consulted and they will make the decision about a potential payment plan agreed to with the tenant.
Please note, that Jellis Craig cannot make a decision on the owners’ behalf, nor may you hear back immediately as the Landlord will need to consider their own personal situation before making their decision.
Even under these circumstances, rent is still due and payable, and it is highly unlikely that you will come to an arrangement in which there is no rent payable at all. As a result, it is advisable that you would want to avoid a large debt accumulating as this will affect your ability to rent in the future. It is imperative that if you have been genuinely impacted financially by the coronavirus that you contact your Property Manager.
What is the rent relief package legislated by the State Government?
The Victorian Government has approved a rent relief package that provides funding for tenants who are under financial duress due to Coronavirus impacting their financial situation.
This is a one-off grant specifically for tenants to ensure that they can maintain safe, secure and stable accommodation and is paid directly to the tenant’s agent, lessor or the landlord to contribute to the tenant’s rental payments during this time of financial hardship.
If you are suffering financial hardship, please speak with your property manager in the first instance, and they will ask you to complete the Jellis Craig Financial Hardship Form. Once this is completed, we can understand your situation further and contact your landlord. We would also encourage you to investigate the rental relief package to assess if you qualify.
Where can I find more information?
As the information being provided by the Victorian Government is updated regularly, further information regarding these announcements can be found below:
Should you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact Jellis Craig via email or phone.
Any advice contained in this article is of a general nature only and does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. Therefore, before making any decision, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice with regard to those matters. Information in this article is correct as of the date of publication and is subject to change.