April 16, 2020
Coronavirus - Tenant FAQ
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.
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.
What is happening with open for inspections?
Open for Inspections are now permitted as long as attendee's adhere to be below guidelines;
- Attendees are required to register prior to the inspection
- Attendance is limited 1 person per 4 square metres or a maximum of 10 people in each property
- Healthy social distancing (at least 1.5m) must be adhered to while at the property
- Attendees must refrain from touching surfaces within the property and use hand sanitiser where possible
- Anyone who has tested positive to, or has symptoms associated with Coronavirus must not attend an inspection
The same guidelines apply to Auctions, which will be held outside where possible to allow for appropriate distancing and management of density quotients.
Some inspections may be held online, in which your Property Manager may ask for access to the property to film a short walk through video which will assist in avoiding unnecessary visits to the property.
What about open for inspections if my property is currently being sold?
The above mentioned process is also a requirement for all sales inspections and auctions.
What happens if I need maintenance completed at my house?
If you require any maintenance please contact your Property Manager and they can organise for the relevant tradesperson to attend your home. There are currently no restrictions on tradespeople entering properties, except for the number of tradespeople allowed in the same space at any one time in line with social distancing guidelines. We ask that all our trades contacts abide by our Coronavirus hygiene protocols to ensure your safety.
Can I be evicted if I can’t pay my rent?
Whilst Tenants and Landlords still need to abide by the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the Act), the Government is encouraging Landlords and Agents to be compassionate and show goodwill during this pandemic.
The Federal Government announced that there should be a suspension on rental evictions for people who are facing financial distress as a result of the Coronavirus. This is yet to be ratified by the State Government but is expected soon.
This will provide a measure of security for those who have been adversely affected and are concerned about the implications of being able to keep residing in their rental home.
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.